The Personal History of Rachel DuPree


In 1917, in the isolated and drought-stricken Badlands of South Dakota, Isaac and Rachel DuPree are struggling to keep their family and their cattle alive. No sign of rain, and provisions are dwindling, but Isaac, a former Buffalo Soldier, is too proud to give up his ranch and return to their native Chicago. After all, being a landowner gives him a measure of equality with his white neighbors.

Pregnant with her eighth child, Rachel’s misgivings about Isaac’s ambitions grow. While he schemes about buying the adjoining ranchland, Rachel’s only concern is how she will feed her children. Isaac decides to leave her and the children alone at the ranch during the winter while he seeks work elsewhere. Her children hungry and cold, Rachel knows she is desperate; she must decide between staying with Isaac and returning to Chicago with her children and she must decide quickly in order to survive.

There have been a fair number of books written in recent years about the contributions of African-Americans in building the West, most of them about Buffalo Soldiers and black cowboys. This novel is a worthy addition to that body of work, and it breaks new ground as it deals with black ranchers. More than a “woman’s book,” the novel is a moving story about strength, perseverance, and maternal love in the face of dire adversity. Strong characterization along with evocative and hauntingly beautiful imagery fully engages the reader in this highly recommended debut novel.

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12 of the best stories selected from the 2012 Historical Novel Society Short Story Award







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