Image courtesy of gigiamateau.com
Come August, Come Freedom
by Gigi Amateau
I feel like I can't talk about this book without talking about Gigi. Gigi first learned of Gabriel's Rebellion from a marker on the side of the road. How many times do we drive by similar markers, never stopping? As she began to research Gabriel and his life, the story started to unfold. She wrote Come August, Come Freedom after extensive study of primary documents. It's these documents that make this novel historical;it's how Gigi fills in the rest of the story that makes this novel stick in your heart.
Gabriel was born enslaved in Henrico County, Virginia. He became a very talented blacksmith in a time where all that was needed to run a household started in a forge. He was a striking man, very tall and strong. He also learned to read and write. By all measures, he was both respected and well liked.
The first part of this book is about Gabriel's success at organizing thousands of enslaved and/or disenfranchised people to march to Richmond and revolt. Rallied by the success of Toussaint in Haiti and using the blacksmith shop as a way to both repurpose weapons and deliver messages, Gabriel was able to put together an intricate plan that he hoped would free not just himself, but all black people.
The second part of this book is a love story. Much of the impetus of a rebellion was his desire to live a life with his beloved Nan. Gabriel saw a life where his children were born free, he ran his own blacksmith shop and Nan worked on her sewing. They were able to be together, as a family - something that did not happen with enslaved families.
As many good love stories so often do, this one ends in tragedy. This heart-wrenching story is made bearable only by Gigi's rich narrative and strong character development; becoming not a story of a botched rebellion, but one of the power of love. This is the story of the perseverance of hope in the face of adversity. This story makes us believe that if we truly want something, we need to work at it. Don't give up, Gabriel warns us. And it makes me want to pick up his hand and run with him.