This deceptively simple book brought to life the story of Dave, a slave potter and poet. With succinct verse and poignant woodcut illustrations Andrea Cheng gives us a novel disguised as a historical fiction, biography and poetry. This lovely little book shoulders a serious job.
There are periods of history that open a universal window into the courage and power of the human spirit. Two that immediately come to mind are slavery in America and the Holocaust. Dave, our potter in this story, suffers the indignity of being owned and sold, he experiences the pain of losing loved ones to the caprice of white owners selling them, he struggles against the injustice of laws that protect this evil institution.
Dave’s spirit is so strong and determined that he cannot help but express his creativity in both writing and his pottery. Despite the immense personal risk, Dave creates renowned pottery and inscribes them for posterity to know he existed. The author describes the power of literacy this way:
“Writing is a dangerous tool.
A slave who writes
might forge a pass to freedom
or conspire with others
to organize a revolt.
Indeed, writing is a weapon.”
Oh the things I could do with this in a classroom study of poetry, historical-fiction, slavery, etc.