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When Professor Robin Greene tells a freshman composition class about her scholarly interest in women's narratives, Samantha Henderson, an African American student, invites Greene to meet her grandmother and to listen to a series of reel-to-reel tapes that both Samantha and her grandmother insist should be part of the official WPA archive of ex-slave narratives. Intrigued, Greene accepts the challenge of authenticating the recordings, but after a full year of unproductive exchanges with historians and archivists, a frustrated Greene decides to transcribe the tapes and to publish the resulting narrative so that readers may judge for themselves if the tapes are-or are not-authentic. In her transcription, Greene presents the first-person account of Sarah Louise Augustus, who comes of age during the Civil War and whose story involves a head-on collision with the moral ambiguities of slavery. Readers follow Sarah Louise as she becomes Augustus-the name she assumes when she takes control of her destiny. Her story begins in the antebellum period and unfolds as Augustus recollects a brutal war and its social carnage. Readers also discover the connections that bind Greene, Sarah Louise, Samantha, and Samantha's grandmother-for these women, surprisingly, share much in common. As a work of historical fiction, Greene's account focuses light on black feminism, on race-specific reactions to historical inquiry, on sexuality and rape, and on the quest for identity. And Greene, who...
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