A Million Nightingales
Straight takes readers back to 19th-century Louisiana sugar cane plantations in a heartbreaking story of a mixed-race slave and her search for freedom. The novel spans the life of Moinette, a beautiful, light skinned “mulatresse,” beginning with the events that wrench her from her beloved mother at age 14 through her final days in her forties. In a rhythmic and observant manner, Moinette describes her journey through a world of brutality, sexual violence, loss, and, finally, freedom.
Moinette begins her tale by describing her childhood, her mother, and the people she lives with. Working for Céphaline, the master’s daughter, Moinette is able to eavesdrop on lessons and learn to write. When Céphaline falls ill and dies, Moinette is suddenly sold and sent away without even a chance to find her mother and say goodbye. Heartbroken, she must endeavor to survive in the frightening world she has been thrust into. As Moinette makes her way from sugar cane fields through mysterious bayous to the streets of Opelousas, readers gain a glimpse of the horrors that slaves faced, their enduring strength, and their never-ending hope for freedom.
Rich in detail, this is a well-researched and eloquent story, perfect for book discussion groups. The picture of antebellum plantation life that emerges is one about human ownership, and an underlying theme of mothers and daughters creates a poignant tone. Moinette’s voice is terse, compelling, and spoken from the heart. The novel is brimming with unique characters and lyrical prose, sure to keep readers captivated long after finishing the book.