Kau is a pygmy tribesmen who has been kidnapped from his home in Africa and sold into slavery, shortly before the war of 1812. After five years as a slave in Mississippi, Kau decides to make the run to freedom, aiming for Florida, still technically under Spanish rule. All Kau wants is to find a forest that reminds him of home, where he can live quietly the rest of his life. Along the way he runs into all kinds of people; Indians, free slaves, Black British soldiers. Although no one owns Kau any longer, no matter who he runs into, he always seems to be a slave in some way.
This was a hard book to read. It was sad and violent. The violence was not gratuitous, nor was it graphic. The best way I can describe it was matter-of-fact. But there's murder, rape and torture. And it wasn't easy to read. At one point Kau thinks how evil seems to follow him wherever he goes. And it does, it's all around him, he sees a lot of evil, he causes some evil himself, participates in it, however unwilling, lets it happen.
It wasn't hard to read just because of the violence, but because it looks at our country's history and it isn't very pretty. This book is "inspired by actual historical events" and I'm curious now to see how much was the "actual historical event" part. So it's after the War of 1812, and I know that the British did offer freedom to slaves who would join their army. I have no doubt that after the war the British took off, leaving most of the Black soldiers there. Florida was still under Spanish rule at the time, although the Americans didn't think so, saying it was part of the Louisiana Purchase, so a lot of runaway slaves went there. What I'm not sure about is the fort that was being run entirely by Black British soldiers. I will have to look that up and see if it was based on something historical or if it was purely fiction.
What was so interesting about this book was how it didn't just look at slavery in the typical sense, but all the different ways people enslave each other. Kau runs from what we typically think of slavery, one person owning another, and ends up in different situations where he isn't exactly a slave any more, but he isn't really free either.
This would be an excellent book to read in high school with 10th or 11th graders. The historical context is fascinating, there aren't that many YA books looking at who controlled Florida in 1816, and how the War of 1812 effected the regular people living in America at the time, or the wars between Native American tribes and Americans, as well as the unique look at what it is to be a slave.
The Eden Hunter will be available in September.