Good Fortune (9781416998631)

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Noni Carter

An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people,
or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents
are products of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events
or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2010 by Noni Carter
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
is a trademark of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
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Book design by Laurent Linn
The text for this book is set in Arrus BT
Manufactured in the United States of America
2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Carter, Noni.
Good fortune / Noni Carter.—1st ed.
p. cm.
Summary: Brutally kidnapped from her African village and shipped to
America, a young girl struggles to come to terms with her new life as
a slave, gradually rising from working in the fields to the master's
house, secretly learning to read and write, until, risking
everything, she escapes to seek freedom in the North.
ISBN 978-1-4169-8480-1 (hardcover)
[1. Slavery—Fiction. 2. African Americans—Fiction. 3. Southern
States—History—1775-1865—Fiction. 4. Youths' writings.] I. Title.
PZ7.C2474Go 2010
ISBN 978-1-4169-9863-1 (eBook)

To Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandma Rose,
my ancestor; my angel

For more information about facts versus
fiction, visit the author's website at

Recommended reading includes
The Norton Anthology of African American Literature
edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Nellie Y. McKay.


child of four years. I watched as a strange light blanketed the sky, as if to package reality and toss it out, over the horizon. Then the night came alive; moonlight flickered; the trees swayed more wildly than the wind dared them to; the stars danced, clapping the earth like the feet of tribal people, black skin digging into ground. The night reveled in its boundless freedom, and allowed the calm to dip into a careless chaos. The night grew tense and swirled about me as I held the woman's neck loosely, my four-year-old arms resting on her soft shoulders. She stood tall, her movements both gentle and confident, and the trees about us beckoned towards her, jealous limbs reaching down to grab and claim for their own. Her teeth glistened, smile radiant, so outstanding that the moonlight itself found a need, in all of its magnificence, to try and steal its glow. To these I shot angry glances and held on even tighter. My mother was mine, and they needed to know it

I turned my small head, searching for the eyes of Mathee, and found myself gazing into their brilliance. Bringing her lips to my forehead, she wrapped me in a kiss, and set me down on my feet, robbing her warm hand from the flesh of my own palm so I could dash away into the hut.

My small knees bent, and I dropped to the floor, sitting on hands, watching Mathee follow me inside. Her hips swayed daringly, and her smile remained set, making real without words the depths of her love only a child could understand. Objects stirred, suns and moons passed by as Mama knelt by me, but I took no notice; I was oblivious to it all.

There was nothing, there was no one but my mother and me.

The two of us breathed in unison, our smiling lips just a hair's-breadth apart, one palm pressed lightly up against another palm, a nose loosely brushing the tip of another nose, eyelids fluttering against each other's. She closed her long fingers around my small hand.

I've missed you, my child.

But, Mathee, I've been here.

You forget, my beautiful flower, you're dreaming.

No, Mama!

She disappeared from the hut, and I was suddenly standing outside, alone.

The stillness hung like a shadow in the air. It was the calm before the storm, before that stillness disappeared with abrupt suddenness and tumbled into turmoil. The clouds burst open, and the thunder put forth the loudest noise I had ever heard. A lightning bolt struck the ground and the sky breathed fire upon the roofs of the village huts. Frantic villagers poured out, screaming, panicked, and terrified, running every which way. Four-legged beasts galloped about, carrying on their backs monster-men who bore fire sticks in their arms that cracked louder than the storm above their heads and that left bodies lying dead on
the African soil. Flames grabbed what they could, devouring the land, feasting swiftly and with greed.

Then I was back in the hut, as was Mama Mijiza, or Mathee as I called her. She sat looking tenderly over my shoulder. I turned and followed her eyes, her soft smile that bounded across the room toward a small boy who sat still and silent on a gray cloud. He was gazing at nothingness, large eyes watching everything with a calm, distracted patience, taking it all in.

I've missed you,
he said to me.

But Sentwaki, I'm here.

You forget, Ayanna, you're dreaming.

No, brother!

The little boy leaped past me, his legs long and quick like his mother's, and disappeared into the confusion of the night.

With a furrowed brow, I turned to reach out for Mathee again, to brush my nose against hers, to feel the soft touch of her fingers against my own fingers as she counted out my four young years in a singsong voice. But instead I found myself staring into the face of a monster-man. His eyes were deep red, and his snarl brought screams to my lips. He opened his mouth, and from it, silver chains flowed like snakes, wrapping my body round and round. …

Mama Mijiza!

I called, but no one answered. I ran out, searching, climbing over houses, ascending to the tops of trees, flying above the waters, searching, searching, and searching some more for that face—soft cheeks, warm skin, light kiss.

My feet splashed against the mud, the African soil snatching at my ankles, trying hard to steal me back.

Where is she?


Sentwaki was back by my side, holding tight to Mathee's hand.

Mama Mijiza, what's going on?

Hush, my child!

There was fear in her, I could feel it, I could see the panic lining her forehead. She began running, moving with the rest of the villagers, her dark skin glistening in the rain, her hair smelling like home. I could hear my mother's heartbeat, the only sound that filled the air:
thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump—

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