Book Review: Joyce Hansen’s I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly: The Diary of Patsy, a Freed Girl

Posted June 13, 2013 by Kathy Davie in

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Joyce Hansen’s I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly: The Diary of Patsy, a Freed GirlI Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly: The Diary of Patsy, a Freed Girl It is part of the Dear America series and is a is a hardcover edition on November 1, 2003 and has 208 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.


This chapter book is part of the Dear America series from Scholastic with a story based from the viewpoint of a young, recently freed slave girl in Mars Bluff, South Carolina, in 1865.

In 1998, I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly: The Diary of Patsy, a Freed Girl, Mars Bluff, South Carolina, 1865 won the Coretta Scott King Award for Author Honor.

My Take

I just kept wanting to cry throughout this story, but I had to laugh as well, for Patsy had everyone fooled. Her own rebellion, and I’m with Patsy at the joke. It’s also sad from a very personal standpoint as Patsy is both the least of the slaves, the most unwanted, and with no family. It breaks my heart to read how badly she wants to be part of a family, to be loved, to be wanted. She also wants to be her own person, so part of the story is of Patsy’s search for her own name. One that belongs to her and means something.

It’s a different perspective, seeing the effects of the end of the Civil War from a slave’s viewpoint. While it is particularly about Patsy whom everyone believes is mentally slow. it’s also a secondhand view as Patsy includes what the other slaves are saying and thinking. But we also watch Patsy’s evolution: the inner one in which she comes to understand why the people around her act as they do and the external one in which everyone around her comes to see her value.

I was so angry with Master and Mistress for not telling their slaves about their being free; I can understand why they didn’t, but it doesn’t lessen how I feel.

You’d think that with slaves walking off right and left that the Davises would be nicer to the ones who are still there…

Do read the “Life in America in 1865” that follows after the Epilogue as it provides historical data about the African Americans who went on to survive — or not. It’s important that each new generation understand the wrongs done, to ensure that these evil doings don’t crop up again. We need to learn from history. Learn what to do and, almost more important, what not to do.

The Story

It’s the end of the war, but Master and Mistress aren’t explaining what it means, not when it will impinge on their own comforts. But one by one, their former slaves are slipping off, leaving Patsy with more and more tasks to learn.

Slowly, slowly, it comes out that Patsy can read. The only one amongst them who can, and when the promised teacher doesn’t show or the reverend can’t make it, they all turn to Patsy.

The Characters

Patsy has a limp and stammers and stutters, leading people to think she’s slow. You might want to explore Patsy’s favorite book, The History of Little Goody Two Shoes and see what it is that attracts her along with A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys that Patsy likes as well.

James is the slave who tends to Master. And I mean everything! Cook — Susan! — is a dab hand at food and with medications. Ruth Johnson and Miriam are house slaves along with Patsy; Nancy is Mistress’ personal lady’s maid. And slave. Luke is Ruth’s son; John is the husband Ruth is hoping will come back for her. Brother Solomon is the headman over the field hands and helps the overseer; he’s also the one who puts in the request for school and land. Sister Violet is Brother Solomon’s wife. Douglass is a young field hand whom Patsy has her eye on. Richard is a field hand who broke his contract and is forced to return. I wish the Davises had been forced to keep to their contract!

Mistress Davis is her terrified and nasty little owner along with her husband, Thomas Davis, who is only called Master or Sir. Annie and Charles are her niece and nephew who teach Patsy how to read, inadvertently. Sarah is Mistress’ cousin coming to stay after their possessions were burned when Columbia was destroyed. Nellie and the Wild One are Sarah’s children.

Mister Joe is a freedman who does all sorts of odd jobs. The Reverend Chaplain Henry McNeal is working with the Freedmen’s Bureau. He starts a Union League at Davis Hall and talks to the slaves about their rights, reads them the news, and explains how the end of the war affects them.

Mary Ella is Nancy’s mother who comes looking for her.

The Cover and Title

The cover focuses on an oval cutout of Patsy in red kerchief and the shoulder strap of her white shift. The background image is hazed over and depicts a gathering of slaves in the woods overlooking what appears to be a large bay.

The title says it all for this slave girl who wrote in her secret journal that I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly: The Diary of Patsy, a Freed Girl.


6 responses to “Book Review: Joyce Hansen’s I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly: The Diary of Patsy, a Freed Girl

    • I can see why, especially if they’re all of this quality I like that the author didn’t talk down to her audience and made the history very personal. A story that conveyed major and minor facts of history very well.

      • Dear America Scott Pendleton Collins (WWII) was one of my favorites. I can’t remember disliking any of the books, and I read up to 52 in the series. I gave them all away, but I wish I still had them. However, I’m glad they’re with children who can’t afford them 😀 The story, and like you said, the history, is outstanding on the personal level.

        • I have one of those collections that got away! Twice! Maybe third time will be the charm. I devoured the Family Classics as a kid and inherited them when my mom downsized her house. I ended up giving them to a niece, but then found them again in a used bookstore. Which, naturally, I ended up giving away to another niece. And I keep wanting to read them again. I’ll just have to haunt the used bookstores…oh, darn…*she says with a grin!*…

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