Once in a Blood Moon Dorothea Hubble Bonneau Manuscript (335 p.)
In this historical novel by Bonneau (To destroy you is no loss, 1992) a young, biracial girl in South Carolina struggles with her status as the heiress to a plantation.
It’s October 1807, just three months before Alexandra de Gambia’s 16th birthday. For the duration of her young life, she’s thought of a black girl named Lulu as her playmate. Now, as she grows older, she must confront the fact that their relationship is that of mistress and slave. Heaven Hill, the plantation owned by her parents who live apart, is divided in two. Her biracial mother, Josephine, rules over the big house and its slaves, and her father, a prosperous, black landowner who goes by the nickname “The Panther,” lives with other free people of color in a village that’s a replica of his Gambian ancestors’ home. The trans-Atlantic slave trade is on the brink of being outlawed, and Alexandra is torn between two worlds: Her mother wants her to “pass” in so-called “high-born” white society. Alexandra wants Lulu and the other slaves to get their freedom. Alexandra overhears local white men planning to burn down her father’s stables because they think that it “Ain’t right for a darkie to own all this land,” and then a brutally racist new sheriff arrives. Will she be able to bridge the gap between black and white townsfolk?
This is a riveting story that addresses the often overlooked and controversial topic of free black people owning slaves in America. Bonneau is a skilled storyteller who also ably weaves African spirituality into her plot. Alexandra’s internal battles with an African ghost, which visits her when she’s weak or fearful, are fascinating: “‘You don’t have the courage to do this thing,’ the Ahoelra whispers. ‘I do have the courage,’ she whispers back.” Alexandra is a tenacious heroine who’s easy to root for, and the author elegantly articulates her precarious position between white and black society. Overall, this novel explores issues of equality and personal freedom in thought-provoking ways.
Sharp writing, an original plot, and a strong female protagonist make for an engrossing read.
I highly recommend this book for the depth of its analysis of the human race, including the social, emotional, physical, and spiritual elements. With over 15 years of research, I believe this is one of the most important books of our time. A great book is one that makes us think and want to discuss further.
I believe this book should be included as required readings for students of American history and literature. Giselle Nguyen
Dorothea Hubble Bonneau is a master storyteller and character builder who was inspired to write her book by a true story and one of her ancestors. Readers will viscerally experience the sudden and tragic turn of
events for sixteen-year-old Alexandra Degambia, the daughter of a wealthy African-American planter and social-climbing mother who can pass for White. The young, educated violinist leads a privileged
existence in 1807 South Carolina. But when her parents die, she endures captivity and suffers
humiliation and loss beyond her wildest nightmares. Is there any escape? Can she maintain the courage and grace necessary to save her life and the lives of others? Prepare to learn. Prepare to be astonished.
Sherrill Joseph, author
This was the perfect book for the times we are in. If you need a reminder about how horrible slavery was and how people were treated—read this book!! A beautiful piece of literature and the surprise at the end when I read about the author brought tears to my eyes. In some ways, I felt like I was reading about the current time. I am off to find if Dorothea Hubble Bonneau has other books, if not, I cannot wait for something else. Amazing.
Michelle Blake, Goodreads
Poignant and beautifully written.
Full of so much history and great themes that go hand with important state the world is in today.
Get lost in the history and learn so much from this amazingly captivating heroine.
Gina Stamper, Goodreads
Once in a Blood Moon is a fascinating historical novel about free blacks in South Carolina in 1800. Alexandra is sixteen, a talented violinist, and is about to become a debutante when a law is passed declaring her and all blacks to be slaves. This is a thrilling story of terror, conflict and survival interwoven with African spirituality and mysticism. I learned a great deal from this outstanding book, especially about the first blacks arriving in South Carolina in 1526. There are excellent references documenting this little known fact. This riveting book is a great educational resource in our current growing awareness of racism and police brutality.
Beulah Amsterdam PhD, author