aCopper Sun by Sharon Draper
About the author:
Sharon M. Draper visited the slave castles in Ghana several years ago. She was so moved, she knew she had to tell the story of one girl who might have made that harrowing journey through “the door of no return.” Sharon currently lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she writes the stories that teenagers love to read. She’s also a popular conference speaker, addressing educational and literary groups both nationally and internationally. The recipient of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent for Tears of a Tiger, she has also won the Coretta Schott King Award for Forged by Fire, and the Coretta Scott King Author Honor for The Battle of Jericho. Her other books include Romiette and Julio, Darkness Before Dawn and Double Dutch.
About the book:
When Pale strangers enter fifteen-year-old Amari’s village, her entire tribe welcomes them; for in her remote part of Africa, visitors are always a cause for celebration. But these strangers are not here to celebrate. They are here to capture the strongest, healthiest villagers and to murder the rest. They are slave traders. And in the time it takes a gun to fire, Amari’s life as she’s known it is destroyed, along with her family and village.
Beaten, branded, and dragged onto a slave ship, Amari is forced to witness horrors worse than any nightmare and endur humiliations she never thought possible—including being sold to a plantation owner in the Carolinas who gives her to his sixteen-year-old son, Clay, as his birthday present.
Now, survivial, and escape are all Amari dreams about. As she struggles to hold on to her memories in the face of backbreaking plantation work and daily degradation at the hands of Clay, she finds friendship in unexpected places. Polly, an outspoken indentured white girl, proves not to be as hateful as she’ first seemed upon Amari’s arrival and the plantation owner’s wife, despite her trappings of luxury and demonds of her own, is kind to Amari. But these small comforts can’t relieve Amari’s feelings of hopelessness and despair, and when an opportunity to escape presents itself, Amari and Polly decide to work together to find the thing they both want most…freedom.
Grand and sweeping in scope, detailed and penetrating in its look at the complicated interrelationships of those who live together on a plantation, Copper Sun is an unflinching and unforgettable look at the African slave trade and slavery in America.
- Descirbe Amari’s reaction to the news that pale-faced strangers are going to visit the village of Ziavi to that of her mother. What does it reveal about their community? How do they treat the strangers and how are they rewarded for their hospitality?
- After the attack on the village, what happens to Amari and the people of her village? How are Amari’s people betrayed by the Ashanti?
- Describe the Cape Coast Castle. What is its use? How are people treated there? What do you think would be the most difficult part of Amari’s journey so far? How are some people able to survive such cruelty?
- Who is Alfi? How does she help Amari to survive the journey? Have you ever had someone who was not family treat you as if you were?
- Alfi tells Amari, “…certain people are chosen to survive. I don’t know why, but you are one of those who must remember the past and tell those yet unborn. You must live.” Would you want to live through the degradations and brutality that Amari has faced so far or not? What does she mean by live to tell?
- Explain the conditions of the slave ship on which Amari, Alfi and hundreds of other souls must try to survive. Whose conditions and treatment are worse, the men or the women? Defend your answer. Is it difficult to read how brutal this account is and know that America was part of the this cruelty?
- How do unexpected acts of kindness and friendship throughout the novel help Amari to survive her ordeal? What qualities of Amari herself help her to not just live but learn and develop relationships?
- Why do you think Draper begins to alternate the points of view between Amari and Polly Pritchard? Who is this girl? What is her story? What assignment is Polly given at Derbyshire Farms?
- Who is Teenie? What does she know of Africa? How does she pass this on to her own son, Tidbit?
- Describe life on the plantation? Who is kind, who cruel? Which jobs are the most and least desirable? When Amari serves at the mansion, what happens? Why do you think some people, like Massa Derby and Clay, can develop a taste for cruelty?
- “We done fell out of a trouble tree and hit every branch on the way down.” (p. 171) What event is Teenie referring to? How does it unwind a length of unimaginable trouble? Describe what happens to all the characters involved.
- Why are Amari, Tidbit and Polly sent for auction? Where are their destinations intended to be? Who aids them in their escape? Would you be brave enough to face their journey?
- What happens along their path to freedom? What direction have they decided to run? Why? Who hinders and helps them?
- Amari struggles with her feelings towards white people when she has been both subject to vast cruelty and unexpected kindness. How does she deal with these conflicting emotions? Do you think she is wise to trust her friendship with Polly? Why or why not?
- Where do the runaways land? How is this place not what they were promised but something worthy anyway? Do you agree, “It be better to die for freedom than live as a slave” (p. 297
Write a scene told through the eyes of Amari or Polly five years after the close of the novel.
Create a map of the journey that Amari took from her village in Africa to her final destination.
Create a piece of sculpture inspired by Amari’s story. Be sure to explain your choice of media, color, form, and shapes in a brief artist’s statement which you enclose with the piece.
Visit www.sharondraper.com to learn more about the author of this novel.
www.freedomcenter.org for lesson plans and other information about slaves and their escapes.
for vast resources including primary sources about the slave trade in America
This guide was prepared by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, a literacy specialist and author of The Floating Circus, visit her website to find hundreds of guides to children’s and young adult literature.