Black Cloud Rising
Set during the American Civil War, Black Cloud Rising is the powerful story of a man grappling with his own complicated history as he forges a future for himself—and his country. For readers of Edward P. Jones and Colson Whitehead
Told by Sgt. Richard Etheridge, the son of an enslaved woman and her former master, Black Cloud Rising is based on the true story of the African Brigade, an all-Black regiment led by General Edward Augustus Wild, a one-armed white abolitionist who terrorized the North Carolina countryside. Eager to prove his manhood and worth, but deeply conflicted about his own notions of Blackness and whiteness, Richard must navigate a world of violence and moral uncertainty, never knowing whether the shot that could end his life will be fired by his own white cousin, who has turned Confederate guerrilla, or his fellow soldier, the self-named Revere, who sneeringly sees through Richard’s racial self-doubt.
The story of the African Brigade, a unit of Black freedmen who fought for the Union during the Civil War, gets its due in this superior adult debut from Falad (after the YA novel Away Running). The brigade's efforts to hunt down Confederate guerrillas in North Carolina in the fall of 1863 are conveyed by Richard Etheridge, a historical figure who was born into slavery on Roanoke Island and fathered by his master, and whose white half-sister taught him to read and write. That upbringing left him with some ambivalence after he was freed; having enlisted in the Union Army "to help destroy" the Confederacy and its dehumanizing culture, Etheridge still retains some fond memories of the time before his liberation. As the brigade prepares for military action in hostile terrain, Etheridge flashes back to his past and to his time with Fanny Aydlett, the love interest he left behind to join the fight. Those recollections alternate with taut combat sequences as the unit struggles to pacify the area. Etheridge is made a fascinating figure, well suited to serve as the focal point for Falad 's exploration of the complexities of Etheridge and his comrades's rapid shift from powerlessness to armed military duty. Engrossing and complex, this will have readers riveted.