I usually take a new book with me when I travel by air. In most cases, I’m able to read going and coming. I usually reserve my flight book just for flying and airport-waiting time. This last flight was different.
I started reading The Call of Zulina (Grace in Africa)after I settled in my seat and I kept reading after arriving at my destination. The story and characters were so engaging I couldn’t wait for the return flight to finish.
Kay Marshall Strom’s story is somewhat based on fact – a white slave-trader married to an African. That in of itself makes a compelling reason to read the book of eighteenth-century slave trade in West African. It is, however, their daughter Grace who is the focus of the story.
Grace is the couple’s only child and is raised to be a proper English lady. Her life changes dramatically when her father promises her in marriage as part of a business arrangement.
When Grace runs away from the marriage, and from her home, she learns the truth behind her father’s wealth and her mother’s anger. Thrown suddenly into the world of kidnapped natives as an African, Grace is respected by some of the captives because of her attempts to help them. Others distrust her because she’s their captor’s daughter.
The Call of Zulina is the first in the Grace in Africa trilogy. This series is more than a good story. Ms. Storm is attempting to use story telling to shine a light on the continued problem of slavery.
She notes on her website (www.kaystrom.com) that although its been more than 200 years since the first anti-slavery law was passed, it continues under nicer names of sex trafficking, human trafficking, bonded labor, or child labor. Ms. Strom says, “ . . . today slavery is against the law in every country of the world. It is up to us to demand that those laws be enforced.”
The book includes a lexicon of words used by native African people and slave traders. I didn’t refer to the lexicon while reading because Ms. Strom’s writing makes each one clear within context.
Discussion question are also included, which are ideal for a book club, and for high school students. Students can learn about the humanity behind the facts of slave trade.
Don’t wait for a flight across country to read The Call of Zulina. Do prepare to be so enthralled with Grace’s tale that you don’t want to leave.
Join the discussion of The Call of Zulina on January 18, 2010.
Interview with Kay Marshall Strom