Title: Das Madchen von Louisiana
Author: Ernst Joseph Gorlich
The story is set in American South before Lincoln became president. Mr. Brand, the owner of a cotton plantation, has fallen from his horse and because of the accident, he died. Since his wife died a long time ago, his daughter Susanne inherits his wealth.
When Susanne returns from boarding school to her father’s funeral, their family lawyer immediately recommends she has to find her father’s testament. Without it, she can’t inherit plantation. Susanne’s mother was black but she as well didn’t know that because she’s so light-skinned. The only one who knew this was a lawyer because Mr. Brand told him.
To her horror, she can’t find testament and lawyer start to treat her like other slaves. Susanne ends up on the auction with other slaves and things from the plantation.
First of all, I want to point out that this book was originally written in the German language. I own it in Slovenian translation but I couldn’t find if an English translation exists. Probably not. But it truly is a beautiful book and I reread it many times since I was little.
The book takes place in that period of history when slaves were working on plantations and had absolutely no rights. They are treated like animals or objects. It also shows a difference between the mentality of South and North America. In the North, things are slowly changing and going for better, while the South still remains conservative and white people are still superior.
Soon, a fourteen years old Susanne discovers this. Initially, she’s shocked because of her father’s sudden death, then at the news that her mother was black and later when she’s completely astonished when she finds herself in the role of a slave. A girl, with a good education, which always got everything she desired, finds herself in chains and on auction, where she’s sold like a horse. She realizes how unfair white people treats slaves, what kind of injustices are happening and how are they treated by their masters. Her new life is difficult, her new mistress is evil and she’s lost in a new situation.
This book will break your heart. It breaks mine every time I read it. It’s a simple story for younger readers. But still, it’s an excellent display of particular period in our history, a time of discrimination and humiliation based on skin color. It also shows, how quickly life can around and how someone’s life can change in a second. It’s a short and bitter story, which I recommend to read if you have a chance.
Rating: 5/5 stars