The Letter Writer by Ann Rinaldi.
Harcourt, Inc: NY, 2008.

11-year-old Harriet lives on her step-brother's plantation. Treated little better than a servant, she finds some value for herself when Richard designates her as the letter writer for his mother. His mother writes all of the letters related to the plantation business, so Harriet is gaining more education in the process. At the same time, Richard charges her with writing to an uncle, as practice, and she pours out her thoughts and worries to this relation, telling the story in the process.

Nat Turner comes to stay and work on the property. Harriet compares his gentle preaching to that of her strict step-brother's ministry, and finds Richard wanting. So when Nat Turner asks her for a map to the surrounding area, she complies, though she suspects it may not be wise. That map becomes a key part of the slave uprising that Nat Turner leads.

Ann Rinaldi discusses the Nat Turner uprising and his character and the idea of the girl as a letter writer being the focus of the story. The act of letter writing being her salvation.

The story was interesting in that, along with Harriet, the reader is totally taken in by Nat's behavior. You would not guess from his mild manner that he is soon to be a cold, maniacal killer. Except that someone else did most of the killing at his direction. Systematically killing at several plantations, and the story does not indicate reasons other than anti-slavery and the flirtations of one girl. Again, Rinaldi peaks my interest. Hearing of the Nat Turner uprising in school, I assumed it was about a slave's revenge. Never having looked farther into the matter, I had no idea that there are differences of opinion regarding his character and motives.

related-Virginia history, Nat Turner revolt, Southampton Insurrection, 1831, slavery, Southern plantations, African Americans

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