Henry Shackleford begins his tale in the Kansas Territory. The year was 1856 and Henry was a slave. Soon the abolitionist John Brown appears on the scene. Brown is all fired up about fighting slavery. When he encounters Henry he thinks she's a girl named Henrietta. And he quickly coins an affectionate nickname for him (her): Onion. From that point onward Onion dresses like a girl. Many years later, when Henry was 100+ years old he told someone about his crazy adventures with John Brown.
This enchanting book is narrated by Onion as he describes the fateful chain of events that garnered him a role in John Brown's raid on the federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia. Onion's yarn is fabulous. You'll laugh when you read it. In this interview James McBride described what it felt like to write this marvelous story. This is one of the best novels of 2013.