“Come on in, Mr. President” is not a line I expected to hear on Wednesday night when local author Gigi Amateau spoke at Dumbarton Area Library about her Young Adult book Come August, Come Freedom: The Bellows, the Gallows, and the Black General Gabriel. But without missing a beat, or losing her train of thought, that’s how Amateau greeted a slightly tardy costumed audience member. He was later overheard to remark, “I heard this book is about liberty.”
And he was right. This compelling fictionalized account of an actual planned slave rebellion takes place in northern Henrico County in 1800, so many in the audience were drawn to imagining what had happened in the community where we live, shop, and go to school or work.
Amateau emphasized the importance of primary documents (click to see some on the Library of Virginia’s website); she read each document multiple times to reach as deep an understanding as she could. Of actually writing historic fiction, Amateau talked about moving from what we know — the facts in the documents — to what we can imagine. Because she spent time as a teen hanging out with friends in Bryan Park — an important site in Gabriel’s story — Amateau could easily imagine many the outdoor settings. At the turn of the nineteenth century, many important gatherings took place outside, and the reader really senses that. Photos of relevant places appear on one of the author’s pin boards.
We don’t guarantee presidential look-alikes at all teen events, but we will say you never know what will happen at the library! Click “Teen Events” at right to see what’s going on at a library near you!