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Black Cloud Rising

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Black Cloud Rising is a powerful, thought-provoking book set in the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War. Our narrator, Sergeant Richard Etheridge, is a recently freed slave, now serving with Union forces occupying the south. He is the son, by rape, of his former owner and was raised with that man's two white children. He never had their privileges, but he had more privileges than many slaves on the plantation, including the ability to read and write. It's this ability that gives his him non-com rank in the Union Army.

There's no easy way to wrap this book up into a tidy bundle because of the many issues it examines. Among these issues are—

• Etheridge's reflections on the new (but not fully changed) world he lives in.

•The extent to which and the ways in which former slaves adjust to their "freedom."

• The varying sorts of racist beliefs held by the white officers leading the negro troops Etheridge serves with.

• Post-war skirmishes with "bushwackers," who now live in the same swamps that had provided a home for runaway slaves.

• Reprisals taken by the Union army against the southerners who have refused to vow allegiance to the new, unified United States.

• The highly charged position in which Black non-coms find themselves, existing in a liminal space between Black enlisted men and white officers.

• The failure of whites in general, even those sympathetic to the cause, to see Blacks as fully human.

In other words, the complexities of this historical moment are myriad, and David Wright Faladé simplifies none of them.

This is a book I know I'll be rereading because I want to spend more time with Etheridge as he observes the new, but still old, world he now inhabits. I, and all readers, have a lot to learn from this title. It's exactly the sort of title that those threatened by Critical Race Theory don't want to read or have available on library shelves. History is ugly, and fighting for a just cause makes a saint of no one.

I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher; the opinions are my own.
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This is honestly such an eye-opening read but unfortunately I didn’t enjoy this as much as I had hoped mainly because of the language. It was hard for me to follow with the terms used and I feel the writing is very dry.

This story is set during the Civil War in 1863 and follows Richard Etheridge who is part of an African Unit travelling around North Carolina freeing those who have been enslaved. It is interesting to note that this unit is made up of former slaves. Richard is a sergeant who is a mixed race man of a slave and her master. During his service, he encountered many people whom he knew and this made him question what it means to be coloured, mixed race and white. He feels conflicted with what he is tasked to do and he is reminded of his past and what it means to be a free man.

I must admit I have very little knowledge of the Civil War so this was quite hard to read. I feel if other readers had more knowledge of the Civil War, they might enjoy this more than I did. Unfortunately, I didn’t connect with this book at all even though the premise is interesting. What I did like was knowing there was a special unit that helped free the slaves during that time and how they went about doing it. I like the fact that this was done by former slaves who risked their lives freeing others.

Thank you Netgalley and Grove Atlantic for the arc.
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This was an absolutely incredible book. The author created one of my favorite protagonists in years. I highly recommend this book.
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A fine historical account of the African Brigade and their bravery during the American Civil War. Made up of African slaves, these courageous men fought for much more than their country.
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Black Cloud Rising, the historical novel that’s already been excerpted in The New Yorker, is the book I’ve always wished someone would write. Author David Wright Falade tells the story of the African Brigade, a unit of former slaves tasked with rooting out pockets of Confederate guerilla fighters in the Tidewater region of Virginia and in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. This outstanding work of historical fiction is one of the year’s best surprises, and it’s for sale now. 

My thanks go to Net Galley and Grove Press for the review copy. 

Sergeant Richard Etheridge is our protagonist; he is the son of a slave and her master. This is the only small criticism I have here; it seems like every time I see a fictional former slave that goes on to do momentous things, he’s the master’s progeny. However, Sergeant Etheridge did exist in real life; I have been unable to discover whether this aspect of his beginnings is fact or fiction. If it’s fact, then I withdraw my objection. 

One way or the other, this is nevertheless a fantastic novel. In fact, since I taught the American Civil War for many years and have never heard if this sergeant, I wonder, initially, if his story is even true. But a little research shows Etheridge to be have been real. I had known about the existence of this brigade, but the only aspect of it I’d seen was--oh how embarrassing—from the movie, Glory, in which an all-Black military unit volunteers to lead the charge on Fort Wagner. But there, the story is told not from the viewpoint of infantrymen, but from the Caucasian officer chosen to lead them. It’s not as if I failed to do research; but during my years in the classroom, I couldn’t find a single thing that reflected the memories and experiences of the former slaves that fought for the Union. And although this book comes too late to help me teach the upcoming generation, it will be greatly useful to teachers that come after me. 

At the outset of our story, Richard approaches his master at dinner, a thing that is generally not done, to tell him that he is going to enlist in the Union Army. Because he is the master’s son, he is able to get away with this, and this has also allowed him to learn to read and write, which in turn makes him officer material. Richard is a well developed character; it is wrenching to see his loyalty and devotion to his father, as well as to his half-brother Patrick, who is the legitimate heir to his father’s estate. Repeatedly the narrative points out that “the son will always seek out the father,” and it makes me ache for this young man. Nevertheless, he does go to war against his father’s wishes, and he demonstrates leadership and skill under pressure. 

There is one visceral scene in which the Caucasian master of a plantation who is linked to the guerilla Confederates, is dragged to his own whipping post and beaten by his former slaves. I find it deeply satisfying. In the end and after much bloodshed, the unit is successful in its mission to clear the area of the guerillas that threaten the Union effort. 

In many ways this is a coming of age story, but those that will love it most are those that enjoy military history and all things related to the American Civil War, as well as those interested in the Black struggle. It’s a great selection for Black History Month, but it will make excellent reading during the other eleven months as well. Highly recommended.
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Brilliant novel. I don't normally read fiction but this was amazing. I will post a review this weekend.
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Powerful novel which depicts brilliantly a little-known historical episode in the Fall of 1863 about the newly formed African Brigade, a unit of the Union Army consisting of former slaves. David Falade has created lead real characters especially Richard Etheridge, the son of a slave and her master. Etheridge is also the narrator. The interaction of the different characters, eg freed slaves with  the white leaders of the unit and/or with  the rebels, raise issues that are not easily resolved. They are thought provoking.. Recommended especially for book clubs.
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This story was amazing! It was filled with historical details about a period of time that is often rushed through during our formative educational years.

Black Cloud Rising follows our main character Sergeant Richard Etheridge and the Union's African Brigade. We follow Etheridge and the African Brigade as they navigate through southeast Virginia into northeast Carolina.

Like most literary pieces, the pace was a slow burn, BUT Faladé's writing makes up for it. Faladé weaves historically accurate information throughout our journey and it exposes you to just how important this brigade was to enslaved Black folks during the Civil War.

This book had me constantly running to Google to read more about the cast of characters that we meet through this story. If you love history but especially Black history then I highly suggest you pick up this story.


Thanks to NetGalley, Grove Press, and David Wright Faladé for the eARC.
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In the fall of 1863, Union forces took control of parts of Virginia and North Carolina. The newly formed African Brigade, made up of former slaves, is tasked with hunting down rebel guerillas in these parts, as well as rescuing slaves left behind. Some of the men are returning to areas where they have previously been enslaved and finding family members and friends to bring back to the Freedmen's Colony.

David Wright Falade's novel Black Cloud Rising tells the story of this little-known historical episode through the eyes of Richard Etheridge, the son of a slave and her master. Richard was treated almost like a son by his white father and half-siblings, receiving an education at the hand of his half-sister, which gave him the opportunity to gain a higher rank in the African Brigade. But serving alongside other former slaves, Richard knows his situation was unique. Where Richard tries to lead his men from a place of restraint, others seek revenge for the wrongs done against them. Richard struggles to reconcile the connection he has with the white side of his family and his fight for freedom. 

I can't imagine what it must have been like to leave a plantation for freedom only to enlist in an army that makes you march back down there. Obviously, not everyone welcomed the African Brigade into town, and the soldiers had to deal with fighting rebels, taking prisoners, and rebuilding destroyed bridges and other passageways. They also had to deal with racism within their own ranks! Not everyone in the Union army felt that black men should have equal status.

If you're looking for historical fiction that will really shine a light on a part of Civil War history, then you'll want to pick up this book.

Black Cloud Rising is published by Atlantic Monthly Press and will be available to purchase tomorrow, February 8, 2022. I received a free ARC in exchange for this review.
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This story delivers a fascinating piece of history. The story offers a well written plot but sadly it didn’t keep my attention. Reading took some effort for me. I enjoy historical reads but the dialogue and pace kept me from fully enjoying Richard’s story. The story is told in first person from Richard ‘Dick’ Etheridge’s view. His perspective captures what I assume life must have been like for a colored soldier during that time.

The beginning started out interesting. Dick a product of his white master raping his enslaved mother. The story opens with Dick and his white cousin Patrick as they catch oysters on the shore. Dick is raised with some privileges but is constantly reminded of his place and limitations. The conflict and struggle is revealed early in the book. As the story goes on it’s evident Dick longs for his father’s acknowledgment and adequateness as a man. I did enjoy Dick’s drive. Reading about his personal fight to show that he is of importance and should be recognized as a man, as an equal. Recently enslaved and now setting out to fight his former owner with others in the African Brigade is a mission that speaks volumes. Very courageous men. If you enjoy literature that takes place during the Civil War era this is one that I’d recommend reading.
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This was not the easiest book to read due to the subject matter (Civil War).  

Black Cloud Rising is the story of how the African Brigade came to be and all that they were able to accomplish under the direction of General Edward Augustus Wild.

Many thanks to Netgalley and Grove Atlantic for this advanced readers copy.  This book is scheduled for release on February 15, 2022.
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Important topic that shouldn't be forgotten, but I've also seen some other truly remarkable stories of this period. The beginning didn't grip me.
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All I can say is READ THIS BOOK! I'm such a history buff, but I tend to shy away from Civil War things in our political climate. This tho?? This was different. This was fabulous. This needs to be up for an Indie award at least.
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Black Cloud Rising
Author: David Wright Facade
Publisher: Grove Atlantic/Grove Press
Publication Date: February 8, 2022
Review Date: October 14, 2021

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

From the blurb: 
“Black Cloud Rising is a compelling and important historical novel that takes us back to an extraordinary moment when enslaved men and women were shedding their bonds and embracing freedom. I urge you to read it.”—Morgan Entrekin, Publisher

By fall of 1863, Union forces had taken control of Tidewater Virginia and established a toehold in eastern North Carolina, including along the Outer Banks. Thousands of freed slaves and runaways flooded the Union lines, but Confederate irregulars still roamed the region. In December, the newly formed African Brigade, a unit of these former slaves led by General Edward Augustus Wild—a one-armed, impassioned abolitionist—set out from Portsmouth to hunt down the rebel guerrillas and extinguish the threat.

From this little-known historical episode comes Black Cloud Rising, a dramatic, moving account of these soldiers—men who only weeks earlier had been enslaved, but were now Union infantrymen setting out to fight their former owners. At the heart of the narrative is Sergeant Richard Etheridge, the son of a slave and her master, raised with some privileges but constantly reminded of his place. Deeply conflicted about his past, Richard is eager to show himself to be a credit to his race. As the African Brigade conducts raids through the areas occupied by the Confederate Partisan Rangers, he and his comrades recognize that they are fighting for more than territory. Wild’s mission is to prove that his troops can be trusted as soldiers in combat. And because many of the men have fled from the very plantations in their path, each raid is also an opportunity to free loved ones left behind. For Richard, this means the possibility of reuniting with Fanny, the woman he hopes to marry one day.

With powerful depictions of the bonds formed between fighting men and heartrending scenes of sacrifice and courage, Black Cloud Rising offers a compelling and nuanced portrait of enslaved men and women crossing the threshold to freedom.
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This was a fascinating piece of historical fiction. Well-written plot, exposition of place, good dialogue, which kept my attention and interest. The characters were very well created, as well as the place settings. 

I found the way the author wrote his sentences to be a bit convoluted, and a little dense. Not enough to keep me from reading it, but it took some effort to read the book. 

The historical part of the novel I found very interesting. I do recommend this book, especially if you like to read historical fiction and/or African-American literature.

Thank you to Grove Atlantic for giving me access to this book, and best of luck to the author in his continued literary career.

This review will be posted on NetGalley and Goodreads.

#netgalley #blackcloudrising #davidwrightfalade #groveatlantic
#historical fiction #africanamerianliterature
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I enjoyed this book, and the writer (David Wright Falade) kept you engaged in the story of the main character Richard "Dick" Etheridge throughout the narrative.

Dick is a very reliable narrator, and the story he tells of his life and his perspective as a member of the African Brigade is compelling. Yet our narrator tells it in a very matter-of0fact style and Falade captures what life must have been like for a soldier at that time, including the boredom and uncertainty.

Falade also doesn't shy away from the controversial aspects of the story - how the African Brigade was commanded entirely by white men, many of who had never seen a Black person in their lives.  And he also addresses the coming of age of Etheridge, a man who is the product of a white master raping his enslaved mother, and the conflict between staying true to himself, but also hoping that his father will acknowledge him as the equal of his white children.

The book is based on true events that took place during the Civil War, and a forgotten part of the war.  I very much enjoyed it and would recommend it.

I did receive an advanced copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review
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