Inventing Victoria by Tonya
Bolden. Bloomsbury, 2019, 257 pages.
Reading Level: Teen, ages 12-15
Recommended for: ages 14-up
Judy 12, 1881, Savannah,
Georgia: Essie Mirth stands by her mother’s grave, her thoughts darting into
the past as the minister’s voice drones through a graveside service. She thinks—desperately hopes—she has escaped
that past, but a biracial woman in the postwar south is on precarious
ground. One big blessing in her life is
Ma Clara, a former slave who has covertly protected Essie from her
mother’s white clients—the ones who come mostly at night and creak the bedsprings
loud enough for the girl to hear in her attic bedroom. Clara’s interference has cleared a way for Essie
to find a job in a respectable black boardinghouse, where she meets and
elegant, cultured colored lady named Dorcas Vashon. Miss Vashon sees the girl’s potential and
offers to take her to Baltimore where she can be educated to enter the high
society of their people. Is the offer
too good to be true?
The novel moves at a
leisurely pace, with no shocking reversals or high-intensity developments. Though
engaging, it could have used a little more dramatic tension, particularly in
the relationship between Essie and her mother (Essie comes to an understanding
about her mother that could have been foreshadowed more). Still, it’s worthwhile to visit this
overlooked period in Black history—the Reconstruction years before Jim Crow and
southern backlash. During this period, African
Americans, most of them former slaves, made great strides in education,
politics, science, and culture. It makes
the crackdown of discriminatory laws seem all the more tragic when we think of
how different history could have been.
But it’s good to revisit this brief flowering of the past, as we pray
for a better future. Some characters,
particularly Ma Clara, exhibits strong Christian faith.
Cautions: Sensuality (Implications of prostitution in the early chapters, filtered through Essie’s memories. Some kissing in later chapters.)
Overall rating: 4 (out of 5)
Worldview/moral value: 4.5Artistic Value: 3.5The post Inventing Victoria by Tonya Bolden appeared first on Redeemed Reader.