Tuesday, February 14, 2006

47 by Walter Mosley

Walter Mosley has written an interesting novel. He mixes a very realistic account of slavery on a cotton plantation in the early part of the nineteenth century with elements of science fiction in his 2005 book 47 . While that sounds like a strange combination, it works well. The author uses the visitor from another time and place as an agent of change. Before his arrival the slaves have no ideas for challenging their status in a brutally unjust society.

47 is a fourteen year old slave whose mother died at his birth and whose father is unknown. He has always been called Baby Child, never getting a name of his own on a plantation where the master uses numbering to account for his slaves. He is designated as 47 when he is sent from duty in the barn to the cotton fields. His initiation is the branding of the numbers into his shoulder. The runaway slave Tall John then comes out of the woods with a mysterious yellow bag and a message for 47, "Neither nigger nor master be."

On his own website, the author has posted his Lecture on 47 which he delivered at the 2005 American Library Association Conference.

I enjoyed listen to 47 read by actor Ozzie Davis whose gravelly voice fits the story well. Most libraries seem to have the book in their teen collections, but I think many older readers will also enjoy this novel. The ending of the novel suggests that 47 may have future adventures. Watch the review journals.

Mosley, Walter. 47. New York: Little Brown, 2005. ISBN 0316110353.

5 compact discs edition. Random House Audio, 2005. ISBN 0307206629

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