Written by two-time recipient of the Newbery Medal, Walter Dean Myers's Juba is the fictional account of the life and times of Master Juba, a 19th century young black dancer. William Henry Lane's (Master Juba's off stage name) tale of struggle, poverty and his long rise to fame is a unique and inspiring story.
Meet William Henry Lane, a young, talented and aspiring dancer living in the slums of New York. By day, Lane is an assistant to a smoked seafood vendor, but by night he is “Master Juba”, the stage performer. Living in 1840s New York, Lane is an African-American free of slavery, though he doesn't feel that way. Throughout the novel, Lane struggles with the systematic racism and racial divisions that exist in his work as a dancer. Primarily, he feels obligated to resist the racist dances and jokes that his audience ask him and expect him to perform. During one of his gigs, he is interviewed by Charles Dickens, who writes about him in his book American Notes. Entranced by the freedom and safety he lacks in America, Lane flees to England and his career takes off.
Juba! is a poignant historical novel and a must read for people of all ages and cultures. Walter Dean Myers revealing and no doubt meticulously researched novel is not only a tale of racial triumph, but a critic of society as a whole.
Juba! is a well written and enlightening novel and also one that I would definitely recommend to a friend. I especially found that the photos and documents (that belonged to the real life William Henry Lane) were very effective in helping paint the picture of “Master Juba”. They are a touch that most historical fiction lacks.
Review written by Natnaiel, teen volunteer at the Cumberland branch.
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