Monday, February 24, 2020

NOW OR NEVER! by Ray Anthony Shepard for Black History Month

I didn't want to let Black History Month go by without mentioning this hard-hitting, beautifully-written book by Ray Anthony Shepard (whom I was lucky enough to meet at the Highlights Foundation Novel in Verse workshop in 2016).
From the distributor, Penguin Random House

NOW OR NEVER! 54th Massachusetts Infantry's War to End Slavery by Ray Anthony Shepard (October 2017, Calkins Creek, 144 pages, for ages 10 and up)
Synopsis (from the publisher):  Here is the riveting dual biography of two little-known but extraordinary men in Civil War history: George E. Stephens and James Henry Gooding. These Union soldiers not only served in the Massachusetts 54th Infantry, the well-known black regiment, but were also war correspondents who published eyewitness reports of the battlefields. Their dispatches told the truth of their lives at camp, their intense training, and the dangers and tragedies on the battlefield. Like the other thousands of black soldiers in the regiment, they not only fought against the Confederacy and the inhumanity of slavery, but also against injustice in their own army. The regiment’s protest against unfair pay resulted in America’s first major civil rights victory -- equal pay for African American soldiers.
Why I recommend itI learned so much from this slim volume about a little-known part of American history. Everyone should read this well-researched book, not just teens and pre-teens. Shepard doesn't hold back in telling the sometimes-gruesome, sometimes-infuriating history of the African-Americans who fought and often died for the Union.
Why did I wait until now to read a book from 2017? Ray is such a kind man, when he learned what I had been through in 2017/2018, and that I was awaiting brain surgery in 2019, he told me to hold off until I was fully recovered, saying it's a "hard and sometimes-disturbing Civil War story."  I'm glad I finally read it, though. It's definitely worth it.

Ray Anthony Shepard from his website

Bio (from Ray's website): Ray Anthony Shepard is a grandson of a slave, a former teacher, and retired editor-in-chief of a major education publishing company., He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska College of Education and the Harvard Graduate School of Education where he received a Martin Luther King Jr. Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. This is his first work of creative nonfiction.
"I write to provide young readers of any age a fuller (not revisionist) picture of American slavery, a corrective history of the struggle and anguish of courageous individuals in the two-and-a-half-century assault to limit full American citizenship to African Americans by ascribing inferior physical, moral, and intellectual attributes to a set of racial features."


14 comments:

  1. This sounds like an awesome book about a time in history that I didn't know about. Awesome that you got to meet Ray too.

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    1. He's an impressive man, Natalie! I'm happy for him. And he has a picture book about Oney Judge, called RUNAWAY, coming next year from FSG. He read an early version of it to us at the Highlights Foundation Workshop. It was so beautiful it had us all in shock.

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  2. I had seen the cover of this one but didn't know much about what was inside. Such an inspiration. I'd love to hear him speak some day. Thanks for featuring this book on MMGM.

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  3. This sounds like a very interesting book about some important and unique African American figures in Civil War history. Thank you for sharing it with us for MMGM, Joanne.

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    1. You're welcome, June! As he states so clearly in his bio, he wants to provide young readers with a "fuller (not revisionist) picture of American history." I think this is more important than ever today.

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  4. Very interested in this book. Thanks for featuring it. And how cool is it that you got to meet him!

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    1. It's always cool to meet an author, Maria! Glad you're interested in this book.

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  5. I'm glad you finally got to read this book—it sounds like a great depiction of an important yet rarely discussed time! Thanks so much for the review!

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    1. You're quite welcome. It really was an important time in our history, and rarely discussed, for sure.

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  6. This sounds like a really interesting book. I'm not sure that I knew there was an all black regiment during the Civil War. Thanks for sharing it this week. I'm definitely going to see if my library has a copy.

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    1. Alex, I don't think I knew that either. So it's important that more and more of us read this book to learn the details.

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  7. Wow. This sounds like an amazing book. I will be looking for this one. Thanks for your review.

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