Review – Queen of Freedom: Defending Jamaica by Catherine Johnson

Book Review - Queen of Freedom

Featured Review on NetGalley – Review

In “Queen of Freedom: Defending Jamaica“, Catherine Johnson captivates with a blend of history and fiction, chronicling the intrepid life of Queen Nanny, a seminal figure in the resistance against British colonial rule in 18th-century Jamaica.

My initial thoughts

I had a very vague understanding of Maroons being ex-slave and freedom fighters and none of the history.  This is a great introduction to several historical characters of the period and is a springboard to finding out more.

The timeline at the back and glossary is really useful for those who want to find out more.  Additionally, there are free resources for Teachers and educators to download from the publisher’s website.

But back to Queen of Freedom: Defending Jamaica

Set amidst the verdant Blue Mountains, this book vividly recounts the tales of the Maroons, communities formed by escaped slaves, showcasing their relentless quest for liberty. While the story incorporates fictional elements, its foundation in historical truths makes it a pivotal introduction to a legendary heroine like Queen Nanny. The narrative, enriched by dynamic illustrations, is an indispensable resource for any reader who wants to know more about Jamaica and its slave trade.

“Five men, one woman, all, yoked together and shuffling. The saddest kind of dance, Nanny thought. Then behind them, not tall enough to fit in the yoke, two small boys, one tinier than Yaw, his belly stretched round– not with food, Nanny knew, but with hunger. They were all shining, the oil rubbed into their skin to make them look healthy. Their eyes all empty, like walking dead folk.”

It sheds light on the often overlooked aspects of British Empire history, prompting further exploration into the courage and determination of the Maroons.

‘Why they do this to us, you think?’ he said. Nanny looked at him. ‘Because they can.’

Why don’t we know more about Queen Nanny?

While Queen Nanny remains an enigmatic figure due to scarce historical records, the author skilfully brings her to life, balancing factual details with creative narration.

Why aren’t we taught about Queen Nanny?

This book not only highlights the themes of resilience and freedom but also offers young readers a window into the complexities of Jamaica’s slave history, an area often underrepresented in the mainstream.  I know it wasn’t referenced in history lessons when I was a child in English schools.

It pleasing to see that Queen Nanny was represented as how she was likely to have been in real life: a clever woman making strategic decisions.  Based on comparable fighter numbers, the maroons were outnumbered, to remain free, smart decisions had to be made. Queen Nanny made those decisions in a time that the status of  women was low even for a slave. Being under estimated by the British worked for her.

“We have to fight and be prepared. And we can fight! Not out in the open, the way they do, ready aim fire!’ Nanny mimed a rifle on her shoulder. She paused, looked hard at Johnny. ‘We must use the bush, the trees, the streams.”’

I am new to the book series True Adventures, but if “Queen of Freedom: Defending Jamaica” is indicative of the range of historical personalities and insightful information shared, then I will know where to look for my next great read.

My thanks to Pushkin Press and NetGalley for a digital advance copy in exchange for a honest review.

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Engrossed Reader

Reading whenever she can, often to the detriment of sleep. Enjoying most genres with preference for ebooks and audiobooks, mainly for convenience.

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