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Cover for The Freedom Race (The Dreambird Chronicles #1)

The Freedom Race (The Dreambird Chronicles #1)

Lucinda Roy


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Other Editions of This Title:
Digital Audiobook (7/12/2021)
Paperback (6/7/2022)


The Freedom Race, Lucinda Roy’s explosive first foray into speculative fiction, is a poignant blend of subjugation, resistance, and hope.

The second Civil War, the Sequel, came and went in the United States leaving radiation, sickness, and fractures too deep to mend. One faction, the Homestead Territories, dealt with the devastation by recruiting immigrants from Africa and beginning a new slave trade while the other two factions stood by and watched.

Ji-ji Lottermule was bred and raised in captivity on one of the plantations in the Homestead Territories of the Disunited States to serve and breed more “muleseeds”. There is only one way out—the annual Freedom Race. First prize, freedom.

An underground movement has plans to free Ji-ji, who unknowingly holds the key to breaking the grip of the Territories. However, before she can begin to free them all, Ji-ji must unravel the very real voices of the dead.

Written by one of today’s most committed activists, Lucinda Roy has created a terrifying glimpse of what might be and tempered it with strength and hope. It is a call to justice in the face of an unsettling future.

Praise For The Freedom Race (The Dreambird Chronicles #1)

Praise for The Freedom Race

“Gut-wrenching read.... This powerful, riveting novel provides a glimpse into a nightmarish future that’s all too similar to our past.”—Buzzfeed

“Every now and then a work comes along that makes you wonder whether you are reading or dreaming. And you’re not sure it matters which.”—Nikki Giovanni

“Roy’s comprehensive worldbuilding and immersive language creates a tapestry.... Ji-ji’s journey is a story of resilience and hope rooted in a place where Octavia Butler and Rivers Solomon intersect with The Handmaid’s Tale.”—Booklist

“You ever have the feeling that if you don’t read something, you may be missing out on something momentous happening? . . . I got that vibe from the first page of The Freedom Race. It has a prescience about it in the tradition of Octavia Butler. . . . If ‘resilience’ was a book, it would be The Freedom Race.”—Maurice Broaddus, author of Buffalo Soldier

“Roy (The Hotel Alleluia) turns to speculative fiction for the first time with this lyrical, Afrofuturist hero’s quest set in the not-too-distant future. ...[Ji-Ji's] harrowing but profoundly spiritual quest for sovereignty against all odds impresses. Readers ... will appreciate both the tenacious heroine and Roy’s intricate prose stylings.”—Publishers Weekly

“The future Lucinda Roy calls up in The Freedom Race is a fierce, unsettling riff on our past and present. Instead of watching democracy evaporate and justice fail, Ms. Roy challenges us all to get over ourselves and join the race for freedom.”—Andrea Hairston, author of Will Do Magic for Small Change

“American magic-realism meets the outcome of the Second U.S. Civil War in a well-told, but brutally jolting, strangely prescient, and soul-haunting narrative.”—L. E. Modesitt, Jr., bestselling author of the Saga of Recluce series

Tor Books, 9781250258908, 416pp.

Publication Date: July 13, 2021

About the Author

Novelist, poet, and memoirist Lucinda Roy is the author of the speculative novel The Freedom Race and three collections of poetry, including Fabric: Poems. Her early novels are Lady Moses, a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection, and The Hotel Alleluia. She also authored the memoir No Right to Remain Silent: What We’ve Learned from the Tragedy at Virginia Tech. Among her awards are the Eighth Mountain Prize for Poetry, and the Baxter Hathaway Prize for her long slave narrative poem “Needlework,” and a state-wide faculty recognition award. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Richmond. An Alumni Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech, she teaches fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction in the graduate and undergraduate Creative Writing Program. Professor Roy has been a guest on numerous TV and radio shows, including The CBS Evening News, The Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS’s Sunday Morning, Oprah, and NPR. Her work has appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, North American Review, the New York Times, the Guardian, USA Today, American Poetry Review, and many other publications. She delivers keynotes and presentations around the country on creative writing, diversity, campus safety, and higher education.

Conversation Starters from

1. As the main character in The Freedom Race through whose eyes most of the action is seen, Ji-ji writhes under the weight of a system that enslaves her. Where does she find the courage to act? How much would you be willing to risk to escape the planting? Which aspects of planting life seem to you to be the most insidious?

2. The book opens with an invented proverb: “Dreams are promises the imagination makes to itself.” How do characters “dreaminate” their future? Is it possible, to “overdream” as Silapu and Bettieann suggest, or is Uncle Dreg right to encourage his followers to dream larger than life?

3. In the novel, the U.S. became the Disunited States after the second Civil War called the Sequel, secessionism, climate change, and pandemics fractured the nation. Do you think that the world depicted in the novel is a flight of fancy or a prediction of what could happen in the future? How does it draw upon the current racial dynamic in the U.S. and elsewhere?

4. This survival story focuses primarily on the lives of girls and women of color. Though their bodies are claimed by the steaders, the women manage to build supportive communities. How do the females in the novel sustain and empower each other?

5. How is the quest for social justice and racial equality portrayed in The Freedom Race, and what is the relationship of this broader quest to the quest for the self?

6. In The Freedom Race, the real world nudges up against the imagined, and science and magical realism are different sides of the same story. What were some of the most “real” moments for you in the book, and which parts seemed closer to dreaming? How do characters in the novel construct their own reality?

7. Walls and fences are two of the dominant features in the novel. How are they used in the book not only to define spaces but also to maintain the status quo?

8. The saying “The only way for a seed to be Free / Is to swing on high from a penal tree” is true for many of those confined to plantings. Yet somehow, the enslaved keep Freedom alive as an uplifting idea. What does Freedom—always capitalized for people like Ji-ji—come to mean to her and to other so-called seeds in the Territories?

9. Purple appears as a refrain in the book. Why do you think this color has such a strong hold on a future enslaved population’s collective imagination? What are some of purple’s literary and religious antecedents?

10. The Freedom Race is a hybrid novel that does not fit neatly into a single category. It can be read as an Afro-futuristic adventure narrative, a spiritual allegory, a satirical critique of racism, a reconfiguration of mythic archetypes, or a meditation on flight, to name some possible interpretations. How did you read it? How did these characters’ experiences connect with your own?