The Life and Times of Hannah Crafts: The True Story of The Bondwoman’s Narrative

Ecco. Oct. 2023. 304p. ISBN 9780062334732. $32.99. LIT
The Bondwoman’s Narrative, written in the 1850s by Hannah Crafts, remained undiscovered and unpublished for decades before it became a best seller in 2002. Its author, a formerly enslaved woman who found freedom, remained a mystery until 2013 when Hecimovich (English, Furman Univ.; Hardy’s Tess), with dogged determination, solved the puzzle of her identity. Here Hecimovich presents Crafts’s life and his fascinating sleuthing journey to identify her as the author of possibly the first novel written by a Black woman in the United States. Dickens’s Bleak House served as the model for Crafts’s exceptional book, and Hecimovich quotes frequently from both novels to substantiate his theory of Crafts’s identity. He describes the challenges in narrowing down the individuals who potentially could have authored Bondwoman’s and the difficulty of finding records of African Americans (both free and enslaved) whose lives intersected with Crafts’s. He includes these individuals’ histories to both rule them out as potential authors and memorialize them.
VERDICT Interspersed with photos, descriptions of pertinent historical events, drawings, and digitized archival documents, this excellent biography will appeal to many readers, especially those interested in genealogy, literature, and African American history.
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