A new historical thriller masterpiece from New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Elizabeth Wein
Emilia and Teo’s lives changed in a fiery, terrifying instant when a bird strike brought down the plane their stunt pilot mothers were flying. Teo’s mother died immediately, but Em’s survived, determined to raise Teo according to his late mother’s wishes-in a place where he won’t be discriminated against because of the color of his skin. But in 1930s America, a white woman raising a black adoptive son alongside a white daughter is too often seen as a threat.
Seeking a home where her children won’t be held back by ethnicity or gender, Rhoda brings Em and Teo to Ethiopia, and all three fall in love with the beautiful, peaceful country. But that peace is shattered by the threat of war with Italy, and teenage Em and Teo are drawn into the conflict. Will their devotion to their country, its culture and people, and each other be their downfall or their salvation?
In the tradition of her award-winning and bestselling Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein brings us another thrilling and deeply affecting novel that explores the bonds of friendship, the resilience of young pilots, and the strength of the human spirit.
Five things you’ll learn from reading BLACK DOVE, WHITE RAVEN:
1. Ethiopia was the only African nation not to be colonized by Europeans: The book is set during a time that was politically volatile for Ethiopia. Once revered as the only African country not to be conquered and settled by a European power, Ethiopia had its own monarchy, led by the Emperor Haile Selassie in the 1930s. The Emperor is a character in the book, and for those who don’t know, he was once known as the Ras Tafari — from which Rastafarians take their name.
2. African-American legend Bessie Coleman: Delia and Rhoda are famous pilots, but even in the book, fictional Delia wasn’t the first black aviator. That was the very real Bessie Coleman mentioned in the novel as Rhoda and Delia’s inspiration for flying. The American daughter of sharecroppers, Bessie learned French in order to get trained as a pilot in France. After flying lessons in Paris, Coleman became the world’s first African-American woman pilot on June 15, 1921. Read more about America’s first women aviators.
3. Africans held slaves: Although slavery is an extremely fraught subject, Wein doesn’t shy away from a painful truth about African nations having a history of enslaving other Africans. In the case of Ethiopia, the nobility was still allowed to own slaves until the early 20th Century. Also, Ethiopia used a different calendar than the rest of the world, and as a result, there is a seven- to eight-year gap between the Ethiopian and Gregorian calendars, so the dates in the book are often (although not always) given in both calendars.
4. The beliefs of Quakers: Many young readers may not have a clue about Quakers aside from the various esteemed (and usually posh) Friends Schools across the country. But the Pennsylvania Quakers, as Rhoda’s family personifies, believed in peace, social equality (they were early Abolitionists) and clean living. They tended to use thou as an ordinary pronoun, refused to serve in wars, preferred plain dress, opposed slavery and segregation. All of that explains the behavior of Rhoda’s parents, and their acceptance of Teo as their grandson. More about Quakers.
5. Italy invaded Ethiopia: Under the tyrannical rule of Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, Italy — which already had an African colony that bordered Ethiopia called Italian Somaliland — engaged in armed conflict against the Emperor called the Second Italo-Ethiopian (or Italo-Abyssinian) War in 1935-36. Italy temporarily triumphed and was able to colonize the country for five years, referring to the nation as Italian East Africa.
Interested in the book? Make sure to read our discussion of the book at We Heart YA; our profile of author Elizabeth Wein at The Reading Date; Gone Pecan’s feature “If You Loved This, You Should Read That.” Plus, we’re offering a GIVEAWAY (U.S. residents only)! Enter for a chance to win BLACK DOVE, WHITE RAVEN:
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Stay tuned in April when we read and discuss Sabaa Tahir’s hotly anticipated debut novel, AN EMBER IN THE ASHES. Read more about it | Pre-order it.
This post fulfills our monthly participation in the Dive Into Diversity Challenge.