Almost immediately, I was sucked in and didn't want to stop reading. I cried and wished for Cy to have a better life. I wanted to rally for his rights and safety. This book just pulls so many emotions from the reader that you want to jump from your chair and act. It's so difficult to read through the punishments, brutal beatings, and horribly difficult work that Cy is forced to do. The fact that most of the boys have really done nothing wrong makes it even more difficult.
Dudley does not hold back and lets the reader live with injustice without the promise of a happily ever after. It's a book that will not soon be forgotten. I would be careful giving this book to students that are too young. I would shoot for high school as the lowest age group. It fits perfect with my Junior American Literature course, but I had a student that gave it back to me because it was too hard for her to read emotionally, not textually.
There is a section about the history at the end of the book that I used within my course lecture with reference to Dudley of course. It really grounds in that after the civil war things weren't automatically better. It clearly shows that changes in culture still needed to be made.
It also is an excellent book to really discuss racism and some of those hidden fears. Just be careful to make sure the reader can handle the unabashed violence. Cy knows better than to get involved. Prior to pursuing his friend, Cy divulges this secret location to his uncle.
Travis's father wastes no time to teach both a harsh lesson. His suspicion is confirmed when he is kidnapped in the middle of the night and taken to a camp, where he is sold as a chain-gang laborer. Dudley is careful not to mince words about Cy's horrific life experiences. Though the story is fictional, there once lived a Cy Williams who was in a chain gang, and the chain-gang experience -- a way to keep free blacks enslaved -- actually occurred in the Deep South.
With that in mind, it is not surprising that very few boys are allowed to leave the camp. Regardless, Cy longs to be liberated. He concludes that "fear is the master, not white men with whips, horses, packs of bloodhounds, and guns. I am always grateful when another puzzle piece of black history comes to the forefront because it helps to complete the picture of truth in my country, the U. Every country has its ugly stories, and the U.
I am also grateful to Dudley, who accepted the challenge to take his master storytelling skills to another level by imagining and sharing Cy's story. Definitely, a gripping plot that is filled with unforgettable characters, Cy in Chains, in my humble opinion, should be earmarked for a book award in historical fiction.
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