I realized after I bought Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson that it was a sequel of sorts to the book Chains (which I have not yet read but now think I need to go backwards.) Both books (Chains was a National Book Award finalist) tell the stories of slaves during the American Revolution, at a time when our country’s fathers were fighting for their own freedom even as they owned their own slaves, too. This terrible irony is made all to clear when the main character of Forge, Curzon, enlists in the fight against the British only to be brought back into slavery by his old master.
And none of the commanding officers intervene, or find it odd. Only Curzon’s fellow soldiers, off in the background of the story, formulate a plan to help their fellow soldier out and find ways to show solidarity with the situation, even though they are mostly powerless to do anything about it as enlisted soldiers.
But the fire of freedom burns bright in Curzon, particularly when he once again meets Isabel, one of the main characters from Chains (I believe) and someone he has dreamed about for much of the book for the way they parted, and he is determined to not only survive, but to help both of them break free and find a better life together. Anderson brings us right inside the head of Curzon, and so we see not only the bravery of friendship in difficult times, but also the fierce independent streak in the former slaves as they fight for their country and themselves. Forge is a reference to the historical Valley Forge, where much of the story takes place as General Washington prepares his soldiers for the oncoming battle against British forces and the dreadful winter that challenges every soldier with survival. And racism works in partnership with winter to create a very harsh climate indeed.
Forge is a powerful book, and a great example of historical fiction that is told with truth about the bonds of slavery and the will to live, and how strong the heart can be in the most difficult of situations.
Peace (in the narrative),