Imagining a Life
From the award-winning novelist and biographer Beverly Lowry comes an astonishing re-imagining of the remarkable life of Harriet Tubman, the “Moses of Her People.”
Tubman was an escaped slave, lumberjack, laundress, raid leader, nurse, fund-raiser, cook, intelligence gatherer, Underground Railroad organizer, and abolitionist. In Harriet Tubman, Lowry creates a portrait enriched with lively imagined vignettes that transform the legendary icon into flesh and blood. We travel with Tubman on slave-freeing raids in the heart of the Confederacy, along the treacherous route of the Underground Railroad, and onto the battlefields of the Civil War. Integrating extensive research and interviews with scholars and historians into a rich and mesmerizing chronicle, Lowry brings an American hero to life as never before.
No escaped slave's story grips the American imagination as deeply as Harriet Tubman's, with the melodrama and near mythic grandeur of her frequent returns to slave territory to rescue her family members and scores of others. Since Tubman (1822 1913) never learned to read or write, her story comes second or third hand, offering researchers a challenge and creative nonfiction writers an opportunity. Lowry, a novelist and author of a re-creation of the life of the first African-American woman entrepreneur, Madame C.J. Walker (Her Dream of Dreams, 2003), "reimagined" Tubman's life in four parts: her childhood as a field slave called Araminta; her marriage, escape and early "rescues" when she was known as Harriet; her legendary Underground Railroad years when she was called Moses; the Civil War years when she was scout and courier for the Union army (John Brown dubbed her "the General"); and her postbellum work with emancipated slaves. Lowry carries the reader through the milestones without slipping into a morass of detail, through legal thickets (largely created by treating persons as property) and Tubman's encounters with many abolitionists without meandering. Tubman's life invites imagining, and Lowry's reader-friendly book, which "does not pretend to be a work of intense scholarship," presents her story with a novelist's sense of pace, suspense and speculation.