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Transcript of Copper Sun
In the novel, Copper Sun, slaves are ripped from the only life they know. There are passages that reflect the memories of the characters. Teenie’s words expressed the memories themes so eloquently “Long as you remember, ain’t nothin’ really gone” (pg. 283).
• Sharon Draper – at the beginning of the novel, Draper states in the author’s note her grandmother Estelle, kept a written journal of her life. She dedicates the novel to her grandfather, Hugh, and Estelle. She gathers the memories of those before her who were taken as slaves. (Draper, 2008)
• Amari – her duty in the novel is to keep her memories alive for her unborn child. She also took the responsibility of sharing her memories with Tidbit so he too, will know his family roots. At the end of the book, Amari says “I will tell this cild of her ancestors and her grandparents and tell her the stories my father told me. My child shall never be enslaved” (Draper, 2008, pg. 301). Her purpose is to preserve these memories so that history will not repeat itself.
• Besa – unfortunately, Besa chooses to forget his past life with his family. He is living a very torturous life in slavery.
• Teenie – she got a piece of cloth from her mother as a way of remembering her African roots. She gives cloth to Tidbit.
By Sharon M. Draper
In a novel like Copper Sun, the issue of slavery is one that could be controversial in some cases. In Copper Sun, the ownership of slaves is viewed by Southern whites as property for many generations. Such is the case with Amari. She was torn from her family and sold as property to Mr. Derby.
Slaves as property
• Whites believed they could treat slaves any way they wanted because they were their property such as animals or pets.
• Slaves were not considered human beings
• Women slaves were treated as sex objects by the male slaves owners.
• Slaves were never paid for their labor.
• Polly (a white young girl) was paying a debt her deceased parents owed Mr. Derby. She would be free at age 29.
• Besa - a symbol in the novel as a slave who could not buy freedom or run away from the white owners. He becomes a shell of a man living in torturous slavery.
n the novel, Copper Sun, the theme “family” is represented through many characters. We must remember that when each slave is separated from their family, whether it is being sold, or torn from their families through theft or death, it is indicative of what white slave owners believed about their slaves, that they were never to form bonds within each other. But in the end, regardless of how the characters came together, it is proven that in a “family”, love overcomes all conquers all.
• Amari had a very close family growing up in the village
• Devastated by violence
• White man killed both Amari’s parents and brother, Kwasi
• Destroyed the village she lived in with her family
a. Stand-in family
1. Takes care of Amari when she is violated (raped), she makes sure she has plenty of food.
2. She encourages Amari to believe in her own strength and beauty “find beauty wherever you can, child. It will keep you alive.” (Draper, 2008,pg. 64)
3. “the one who love me [Amari] and helped me find my destiny” (Draper, 2008, pg. 301)
1. Surrogate mother to Amari at the Derby Plantation
1. Amari and Polly are inseparable like sisters
2. Different race than Amari, Polly is white
a. She was a slave to repay a debt to Derby from deceased parents
b. Storyline about Polly and Amari shows the reader that it is not the color of skin that defines a familial bond, it is what is inside a person
1. Teenie’s four-year-old son adopted by Amari
v. Unborn child – Freeman or Afi
1. Clay Derby’s child (conceived through rape)
2. Amari will separate her hatred for Clay Derby and love the unborn child with all her heart.
Copper Sun has an obvious place in the intermediate social studies classroom. Since Copper Sun is about the slave trade during the 1700's, it offers a gateway into that era through the eyes of characters like Amari, Afi, Polly, Teenie and Tidbit with whom the students can connect. It is important that teachers are able to bring history alive for students, and to make history relevant to them so they view it as valuable. Through the use of historical fiction, students become more engaged with the past.
As students research the history and geography associated with Copper Sun and the Slave Trade, a natural real world connection should emerge easily. Throughout the book, there are times when characters have to take a stand, and times when character could have but didn't. Students should think about these instances (Isabelle stopping Amari's beating, Amari yelling at Clay to stop using Tidbit as gator bait, Dr. Hoskins the abolitionist, etc.). This can lead to the discussion about how far students might be willing to go for money as well as their ideas about conformity, collusion, and standing up for what you believe in despite the risks.
Interdisciplinary/Real World Connections
While students will be shocked and appalled by the treatment of the slaves in Copper Sun – they should also understand why the slave trade was a profitable business, especially in the South. Students can research the Triangle Trade to find out why the trade was so profitable.
One activity that students could do in the social studies classroom along with the reading of Copper Sun is to chart on a map the route that the slave ships took from America to Africa, and also the route that Amari, Polly and Tidbit took from South Carolina to St. Augustine, Florida. In addition to tracing the route using a scale, they can determine about how long it might have taken them if they were able to travel by boat or by car. Through this activity, students will gain a better understanding of what slaves went through to gain their freedom.
Students can also do research on the Cape Coast Castle. A teacher can set up a WebQuest requiring students to find pictures and answer specific questions regarding the place where Amari met Afi, one of the most influential characters in the book. This will help them to connect to the terror and despair Amari felt during that time in the book.
Skills and Strategies
summarizing, predictions, cause/effect, compare/contrast, evaluation, recalling details
figurative Language, theme, point of view, character analysis, genre, symbolism, setting, story map
decision making, analysis, questioning, brainstorming, inferences
discussion, dramatic reading, character interview, mock trial
Across the Curriculum
History – slavery, slave ships, indentured servitude;
Geography – Cape Coast Castle, Middle Passage, Sullivan’s Island, Charles Town, Fort Mose;
Culture – African, colonial;
English – grammar, inconsistencies;
Science – copperhead;
Art – illustration, movie poster, mural collage, mock trial
target words, definitions, application
Journal entry, obituary, acrostic, letter, epilogue, autobiography, essay, haiku
Students will use the chart below to make some predictions before and during the reading of Copper Sun.
What characters have we met so far?
What is the conflict in the story?
What are your predictions?
Why did you make these predictions?
Metaphors and Similes
Students will write the translation of the metaphor or simile and either write the idea or draw the object being compared.
Draw each character and list the attributes of each of the characters. In each character box, write words or phrases that describe or portray the character.
Our Literature Circle
Our group looked at a few methods of conducting literature circles. We narrowed it down to two methods, which were assigning roles to each member and response journals. After reviewing the two methods we agreed to use reader response journals. Our rationale for using the method of reader response journals was that it would give us the opportunity to identify questions we felt would meet the goals for the literature circle on Copper Sun. Using reader response journals, we were able to take risk and be honest with what we liked or disliked about Copper Sun.
One of our group members prepared a set of questions for each section of Copper Sun. These questions allowed us the opportunity to make connections to the text and share our perspectives on events happening in the story.
Hancock, M. R. (2008). A celebration of literature and response: Children, books, and teachers in K-8 classrooms. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Hutchison, P. (2009). Copper sun new ways to teach reading, writing and the love of literature: Bulverde, TX, Novel Units Inc.