OUSD > Urban Dreams > Language Arts > Extended Literature > Grade 11 > Williams


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This acclaimed historical novel is based on two actual incidents: In 1829 in Kentucky, a pregnant black woman helped lead an uprising of a group of slaves headed to the market for sale. She was sentenced to death, but her hanging was delayed until after the birth of her baby. In North Carolina in 1830, a white woman living on an isolated farm was reported to have given sanctuary to runaway slaves. In Dessa Rose, the author asks the question: "What if these two women met?"

From there the story unfolds: two strong women, one black, one white, form a forbidden and ambivalent alliance; a bold scheme is hatched to win freedom; trust is slowly extended and cautiously accepted as the two women unite and discover greater strength together than alone. United by fate but divided by prejudice, these two women are locked in a thrilling battle for freedom, sisterhood, friendship, and love. (© ReadingGroupGuides.com)

Author Biography:

Born August 25, 1944, in Bakersfield, California, to Lena-Leila Marie Siler and Jesse Winson Williams, Sherley Anne Williams is the third of four daughters. She, her parents, and her three sisters, Ruby, Jesmarie, and Lois, fought the constant despair of life in the housing projects in Fresno, California. Her family earned their living by picking fruit and cotton. Williams's father died of tuberculosis when she was eight years old, and her mother died when Williams was 16. An older sister, whom she credits with being a major influence in her life, reared her after the mother's death. During her early years, Williams found herself associating with people whom she said could be termed "juvenile delinquents"(Draper 1950). However, she was able to separate herself from those influences through her love of history and biography. Along with encouragement from her science teacher, she was also influenced by books such as Richard Wright's Black Boy and Eartha Kitt's Thursday's Child. Williams has been quoted as saying, "It was largely through these autobiographies I was able to take heart in my life"(CLC 318). Other writers such as Amiri Baraka, Sterling Brown, Langston Hughes, and poet Philip Levine, her professor at Fresno State University, also greatly influenced Williams. More...

http://voices.cla.umn.edu/authors/SherleyAnneWilliams.html (Voices from the Gaps)

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