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Daughter of a daughter of a queen : a novel
1st ed.
Physical Description:
398 pages ; 25 cm.
Here's the first thing you need to know about Miss Cathy Williams: I am the daughter of a daughter of a queen and her Mama never let her forget it. Cathy Williams was born and lived a slave until the Union army came and destroyed the only world she had ever known. Separated from her family, she makes the impossible decision: to fight with the Buffalo Soldiers disguised as a man. With courage and wit, Cathy must not only fight for her survival and freedom in the ultimate man's world, but never give up on her mission to find her family, and the man she loves. --


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"You'll be swept away by the passion and power of this remarkable, trailblazing woman who risked everything to follow her own heart." - Kristin Hannah, #1 New York Times bestselling author

"An epic page-turner." - Christina Baker Kline

"Bird's fast-paced, action-packed story is a bittersweet one--grand love and legacy ultimately eluded Williams--but this fearless, often heartbreaking account sheds a welcome light on an extraordinary American warrior." - Publisher's Weekly, Starred Review

Named Best Fiction Writer in the Austin Chronicle 's "Austin's Best 2018"
Named one of Lone Star Literary Life's "Top 20 Texas Books of 2018"

The compelling, hidden story of Cathy Williams, a former slave and the only woman to ever serve with the legendary Buffalo Soldiers.

"Here's the first thing you need to know about Miss Cathy Williams: I am the daughter of a daughter of a queen and my mama never let me forget it."

Though born into bondage on a "miserable tobacco farm" in Little Dixie, Missouri, Cathy Williams was never allowed to consider herself a slave. According to her mother, she was a captive, destined by her noble warrior blood to escape the enemy. Her chance at freedom presents itself with the arrival of Union general Phillip Henry "Smash 'em Up" Sheridan, the outcast of West Point who takes the rawboned, prideful young woman into service. At war's end, having tasted freedom, Cathy refuses to return to servitude and makes the monumental decision to disguise herself as a man and join the Army's legendary Buffalo Soldiers.

Alone now in the ultimate man's world, Cathy must fight not only for her survival and freedom, but she also vows to never give up on finding her mother, her little sister, and the love of the only man strong enough to win her heart. Inspired by the stunning, true story of Private Williams, this American heroine comes to vivid life in a sweeping and magnificent tale about one woman's fight for freedom, respect and independence.

"Sarah Bird masterfully tells the story of Cathy (Cathay) Williams, the only female ever to serve with the legendary Buffalo Soldiers... Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen is a wonderful read." - Michael Hurd, author of Thursday Night Lights , managing editor of The Texas Black History Project , and director of the Texas Preservation of History and Culture

Author Notes

Sarah Bird is the author of four previous novels: "Virgin of the Rodeo", "The Boyfriend School", "Alamo House", & "The Mommy Club", which received the Texas Institute of Letters 1991 Fiction Award. She lives in Austin, Texas.

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Bird's rich historical novel (after Above the East China Sea) is a layered study of post-Civil War America from the imagined perspective of remarkable Buffalo Soldier Cathy/Cathay Williams, the first woman to serve in the legendary all-black cavalry and infantry. Mining the rich terrain of Civil War military history, the nation's western expansion and clashes with Native Americans, and the fraught issues of gender and race relations, Bird frames an epic romantic tale around Williams. It tracks her life from the time she's taken from her family as "contraband" by the Union Army in the waning days of the Civil War, to her service as a cook's aide to Gen. Philip Sheridan, to her illicit enlistment in the Army-disguised as William Cathay-and service as a rifleman with the Buffalo Soldiers cavalry. Williams, as narrator, reveals a bravado fueled by her love of dashing Yankee soldier Wager Swayne, hero-worship of Sheridan, and pride in her heritage as the granddaughter of an African queen. Bird's fast-paced, action-packed story is a bittersweet one-grand love and legacy ultimately eluded Williams-but this fearless, often heartbreaking account sheds a welcome light on an extraordinary American warrior. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

Lightly based on the true story of a freed female slave who posed as a man, joined the army, and served with the Buffalo Soldiers, this rollicking epic marches fearlessly from the Civil War South to the sunburned edge of the Western frontier."[M]y real life, the one I was meant to have, did not start until an August night in 1864, three years into the war, when I watched the only world I'd ever known burn to the ground and met the man who was to be my deliverance and my damnation, the Yankee general Philip Henry Sheridan." In her 10th novel, Bird (Above the East China Sea, 2014, etc.) delivers a high-energy page-turner that combines vividly re-created historical figures and events with a wild mustang of a plot and an embattled secret love, the last of which fans will recognize as a specialty of this author. Very much like Onion in The Good Lord Bird, Cathy Williams successfully poses as a man to find her way out of the particular hell reserved for young black girls of this period. In fact, when we meet her, she has already gotten away with a diabolical plot to kill her owner as punishment for "interfering" with her little sister and has taken to wearing britches. When Sheridan's troops arrive to pillage whatever food and supplies are left on the plantation, they requisition Cathy as well, thinking she's a young man and just the right person to help their cook. Torn from her mother and sister, she is tossed in the back of a wagon to ride up to camp. In it she finds a mortally wounded black Yankee soldier with whom she falls hopelessly in love just before he expires and is tossed over the side. This author has no trouble keeping a crazy romance with a dead person going great guns while exploring the very real historical ironies of black soldiers sent to subdue Native American tribes. Meanwhile, the travails of this woman-pretending-to-be-a-man echo across the centuries.Rapturously imagined and shamelessly entertaining. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Many historical novels celebrate strong women whose accomplishments went unheralded in their time. Cathy Williams, the first black woman to serve in the U.S. Army, is a prime example. Bird's (Above the East China Sea, 2014) fictionalized version of her life begins in 1864, when Yankee general Philip Sheridan burns the Missouri plantation where she is enslaved and takes her as contraband to become his cook's assistant. Cathy is proud of her illustrious African heritage, and her witty voice and down-to-earth honesty enliven her lengthy tale. After Appomattox, declining a traditional feminine role, she dresses as a man and enlists as William Cathay. Bird's meaty epic provides abundant, intimate details about Cathy's life as a Buffalo Soldier: her patrols on the western frontier; the racism of her unit's white commanding officer; and the harassment she endures from her fellow soldiers, who find her self-protective modesty unnatural. She's also secretly attracted to her fair-minded sergeant. If you don't push, you never move ahead, she notes, determining never to be unfree again. An admiring novel about a groundbreaking, mentally tough woman.--Sarah Johnson Copyright 2018 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Developed from an original screenplay that won a place in the Meryl Streep-funded Writers Lab in 2015, this novel wraps a fictional narrative around the real-life Cathy Williams, the only woman, disguised as a man, to serve with the Buffalo Soldiers following the Civil War. Born a slave to a descendant of an African Amazon queen, Cathy is liberated from a miserable Missouri tobacco farm when Gen. Philip Sheridan burns it to the ground. Requisitioned from the farm by Sheridan to become his cook's helper, she attracts the protective attention of chef Solomon, who helps her navigate the military life. When the war ends, Cathy and Solomon's plans to head West fall apart, leading her to refashion herself as a "William Cathay" so she can join the peacekeeping forces of Sgt. Levi Allbright in the cavalry. Verdict Bird (Above the East China Sea) crafts a number of clever scenarios that build tension around Cathy's disguise as a man, creating a not-to-be-missed read for fans of historical military fiction and strong female protagonists.-Wendy W. Paige, Shelby Cty. P.L., Morristown, IN © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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