The Bondwoman's Narrative

  • by Hannah Crafts, edited by Henry Louis Gates
  • Narrated by Anna Deavere Smith
  • 7 hrs and 20 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

An unprecedented historical and literary event, this tale written in the 1850s is the only known novel by a female African American slave, and quite possibly the first novel written by a black woman anywhere. A work recently uncovered by renowned scholar and professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., it is a stirring tale of "passing" and the adventures of a young slave as she makes her way to freedom.The Bondwoman's Narrative tells of a self-educated young house slave who knows her life is limited by the brutalities of her society, but never suspects that the freedom of her plantation's beautiful new mistress is also at risk...or that a devastating secret will force them both to flee from slave hunters with another powerful, determined enemy at their heels.This program includes an exclusive interview with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

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What the Critics Say

"Thanks to the unrelenting probe of a Harvard University historian, again, we get the story from the woman's mouth itself. We learn the day-to-day experiences of a bondwoman through her fiction. We see in the intimacy of Craft's novel the gross, ugly vulgarity of the 'peculiar institution'." (Maya Angelou)
"Let it be emphasized that this novel is not simply a historical document but also a vivid, compelling narrative." (Booklist)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Poor reading of an important book

Listening to Hannah Craft's "The Bondwoman's Narrative" I had the unique experience of realizing that I could have done a better job of reading -- and I'm no good at it. The reader, Anna Deveare Smith, demonstrated very little feeling for the text, and even seemed to allow her mind to wander while reading. Ms. Smith also used the unfortunate technique of reading dialogue very rapidly when trying to convey emotional intensity. When I first heard that Henry Louis Gates, Jr. had discovered a manuscript that was very likely the first novel written by a black woman in America, I was excited and impatient to read it. I am pleased to report that "The Bondwoman's Narrative" is a good yarn (several good yarns, really) that incorporates a number of literary traditions, including the sentimental novel, the gothic novel, adventure fiction, and slave narrative. With all this to recommend it, Ms. Smith's reading is so clumsy that I could not stand to finish "The Bondwoman's Narrative" in audio form. On a positive note, the audio book includes a fantastic interview with Gates about his discovery of the manuscript and his subsequent sleuthing to verify its authenticity and confirm the racial identity of the author.
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- Hilary

Loved it!!!

What did you love best about The Bondwoman's Narrative?

The rich language which transported me in time.


Who was your favorite character and why?

Hannah by far was my favorite character. I loved how she leaned on scripture to get through the bad times. But Lizzie was a fun character too.


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- ayodele higgs

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-24-2002
  • Publisher: Hachette Audio