The Price of a Child: A Novel

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Mar 23, 2011 - Fiction - 336 pages
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An intimate, gripping novel of the antebellum Underground Railroad, based on the true story of a valiant Philadelphia freedwoman -- the first novel we have had from the author of Black Ice, the "stunning memoir" (New York Times) of a black student's experience at a New England prep school in the 1970S.

The Price of a Child opens in the fall of 1855. A Virginia planter is on his way to assume a diplomatic post in Nicaragua, accompanied by his cook, Ginnie, and two of her children (one of whom is his). Temporarily stranded in Philadelphia when they miss their steamboat, Ginnie makes a thrilling leap of the imagination: it is the moment she has been desperately waiting for, the moment she decides to be free. In broad daylight, under the furious gaze of her master, she walks straight out of slavery into a new life -- and into a whole new set of compromising positions. We follow Ginnie as she settles with a respectable and rambunctious black family, as she reinvents herself, christens herself Mercer Gray, dodges slave catchers, lectures far and wide in the cause of abolition, and falls in love with a man whose own ties are a formidable barrier to their happiness. And we see her agonizing all the while about the baby boy she had to leave behind on the plantation, whom she is determined to rescue.

In a remarkable feat of historical empathy, Lorene Cary has created an authentic American heroine -- a woman who finds voice for the appalling loss and bitterness of her past, and who creates within herself a new humanity and an uncompromising freedom.

From the Hardcover edition.

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About the author (2011)

Lorene Cary was raised in Philadelphia and Yeadon, Pennsylvania. She was graduated from St. Paul's School in 1974 and received a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1978. While studying at Sussex University on a Thouron Fellowship for British -- U.S. student exchange, she earned an M.A. in Victorian literature. In 1992, Colby College conferred on her an honorary Doctor of Letters.

In the early 1980S Ms. Cary worked as a writer for Time and as Associate Editor at TV Guide. Since then, she has taught at St. Paul's Shool, Antioch University (Philadelphia campus), and the University of the Arts, and has written articles for such publications as Essence and The Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday Magazine. In 1992 she was a contributing editor at Newsweek. Her previous book, Black Ice, was published in 1991 and chosen by the American Library Association as one of its Notable Books for 1992.

Ms. Cary lives in Philadelphia with her husband, R. C. Smith, and their daughters, Laura and Zoe.

From the Hardcover edition.

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