This feels timely. In Oh, Freedom we get black American history courtesy of Italian author Francesco D’Adamo, translated into English by Siân Williams. It might feel like the long way round, but that’s rather like the walk to freedom the slaves in the book experience. Sometimes to get there means going an extra long way.
It’s a short novel set in 1850, about ten-year-old Tommy and his family, who through a stranger find out about the Underground Railroad, which is the name for an organised way of walking to freedom in Canada.
Peg Leg Joe shows them the way, and also how to avoid getting caught by their owner’s foreman. This is fascinating reading, and I’m especially pleased to read about all the – mostly – anonymous help the fleeing slaves receive en route. Complete strangers leave food and clothes for them, help them find the way if necessary, and at some point share their home with them.
We need more of this kind of thing. We need it more than ever. The friendship towards people you don’t know and who are a little bit different from you. The books about this kind of behaviour. All of it.
(By sheer coincidence, there was an event with Francesco in London yesterday. We need more events, too.)