Sarah's Stars

Afua Cooper. My Name is Phillis Wheatley, a Story of Slavery and Freedom
KCP Fiction $16.95 ISBN 978-1-55337-812-9 152 pg.
Reviewed by Koryn, Age 12

"It’s me, Phillis.” I opened my door and there stood Aunt Betty holding a candle, smiling broadly. Though I called her “Aunt” and she cared for me like mother, she never spoke to me in the patronizing manner in which most adults speak to children. There was complete ease between us. But we had to be careful. Mistress would get very angry if she knew Aunt Betty and I still met and spoke, however briefly.

Penda Wane is brought over to America from Africa, and is bought as a slave for the Wheatleys. She is renamed Phillis Wheatley, and is a slave to her mistress, Mrs. Wheatley. Phillis finds herself learning the English language quickly and Mrs. Wheatley and her oldest son start to teach her all that they know. Here begins the journey of the ‘negro genius’ as she writes her poetry to the stubborn ears of America.

Afua Cooper has written many historical fiction novels, such as The Hanging of Angélique: The Untold Story of Canadian Slavery and the Burning of Montreal and My Name Is Henry Bibb.  She has also written 5 books of poetry.

My Name is Phillis Wheatley was a different book than I would normally choose, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. The characters were very unique, and I loved the background Afua Cooper gave on Phillis Wheatley’s life. It was very intriguing and interesting. I got a bit confused with all the different characters that were mentioned, but I really loved Phillis. I was appalled by the way the Americans treated their slaves, and the whole story seemed very well researched. The plot was very original, though it seemed to fade in and out of the story.

I really enjoyed Afua Cooper’s tribute to history in My Name Is Phillis Wheatley, and I give it four stars.

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