by Sarah Bird
Genres: Historical Fiction
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The compelling, hidden story of Cathy Williams, a former slave and the first woman to ever serve in the US Army
“Here's the first thing you need to know about Miss Cathy Williams: I am the daughter of a daughter of a queen and my Mama never let me forget it."
Powerful, epic, and compelling, Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen shines light on a nearly forgotten figure in history. Cathy Williams was born and lived a slave – until the Union army comes and destroys the only world she’s known. Separated from her family, she makes the impossible decision – to fight in the army disguised as a man with the Buffalo Soldiers. With courage and wit, Cathy must not only fight for her survival and freedom in the ultimate man’s world, but never give up on her mission to find her family, and the man she loves. Beautiful, strong, and impactful, Cathy’s story is one that illustrates the force of hidden history come to light, the strength of women, and the power of love.
Today we are welcoming Sophia Rose as she shares her thoughts on the historical fiction, Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen by Sarah Bird. I must confess, she has me curious. Grab a cup of tea and decide for yourself.
Sophia Rose’s Review
A woman born a slave, but the granddaughter of an African Queen, freed by the Union Army, and ends up pretending to be male so she can join the Buffalo Soldiers and go west to fight the Plains tribes. It was well-nigh irresistible when it turns out to be based on the true life woman, Cathy Williams, who was the first to serve in the US Army as a female Buffalo Soldier.
The story starts with the home where Cathy is a slave invaded by General Sheridan and her Amazon-size person being mistaken for a man and hauled off from her mother and sister to work as a cook’s assistant in Sheridan’s army. She sets them straight, gets put in her place, and then she saves Sheridan’s contraband and soldiers with her sharp-shooting skills. Meanwhile, she falls in love with a dying soldier, loses him, and then falls in love again, only to lose this one after the war is over. At this point, she makes the momentous decision to disguise herself, enlist with the Buffalo Soldiers and go fight out West.
I confess that I went into this with mixed emotions. High anticipation was the big one, but I was also wary because I knew my heart would take a hit knowing that this woman would not have led even close to a happy life under such circumstances. I wanted to see her courageously face the challenges, but I was already cringing at those challenges (slavery, dubious freedom, faking her gender, fighting Native Americans… and that was just the beginning). I was right to worry and I got worked up several times on her behalf, but I also was awed by her grit and courage as she did what she had to do. Each time she picked herself up, life knocked her down. And, each time I held my breath thinking she was caught out, fate intervened. Her outspokenness and then her hiding her identity got her in trouble many times, of course.
Life was hard and the book didn’t stint on that which was why the fictional romance made her struggles even more amazing (b/c in realsies the romance didn’t exist and she still did many of her exploits). She was brave and outspoken, pragmatic about doing what she had to do, and also vulnerable. It was tough to read about those awful times of the latter part of the Civil War and then the Indian Wars out west, but also fascinating to learn how the African American soldiers coming out of slavery could go out and fight Native Americans. So much to digest in this one.
I know its always an interesting balance when it comes to historical fiction between what was fact and what was creative interpretation when the facts weren’t there. This one has a big piece that wasn’t fact and I suspect several smaller ones, too. Still, the story flowed well and I was glad to learn about the Buffalo Soldiers and their part of the frontier war, women in this time and war, and this particular woman.
One niggle, and it might have been a choice of cutting details to keep the story flow, but I felt that some description and detailing was left out while other things were detailed closely. Like, in the time out West, there wasn’t the opportunity to get to know the opposite side leaving them these vague hair-raising savages all lumped together.
All in all, I was glad to have read Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen, though it wasn’t light and I didn’t feel it was happy even in the end. I was awed by such a woman and hope more little known courageous people get their stories written. I would definitely recommend this to those who enjoy Historical Fiction set in mid-nineteenth century America.Do you love historical fiction set in mid-nineteenth century America? Then you will want to #read Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen by Sarah Bird Click To Tweet