The Diary of a Slave

December 23, 2010
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If a slave had been able to write, what would they say? If they were on the ship, no idea where they are going, how would they express this confusion and mix of emotions? In this story, I take on the persona of Asha Larai, a young twelve-year-old girl on a slave ship during 1624. Just five years ago, her parents were taken to become some of the first slaves, and now it is her turn. I give her a voice and let her speak with my knowledge. She bleeds through the paper.

Dear Diary,

I sit, surrounded by people not six inches away, underneath the deck of a boat. I stare at the bodies-rows and rows of bodies. Some left us because of disease, others old age. Holding my breath is pointless, the acrid smell never goes away and even when I do get off this ship, I will still remember that distinctive scent. The groans grow so loud that I cover my ears and try to muffle the sounds with my own singing. Last night I sang until my body passed out from exhaustion and I could only hope that I would make it until the next day. I’ve become so accustomed to tears constantly wetting my face that it would feel odd not to cry. The cycle makes this seem normal. Maybe that is why I continue to cry- stopping would break the cycle and I would have no daily ritual to follow.
Some days I wonder why I’m kept down here. I am so young compared to the rest of us. Yet the others and I are still hidden as the white men’s dirty secret. When they feel the need to be entertained, the secret is divulged. They force us onto the deck, group by group, to dance. The winter air is refreshing at first, but then I cannot stop shivering and I don’t want to move. It is so cold and my fingers hurt from frostbite. We are humiliated while at our lowest points. Our hope and dignity disappears behind the crack of a whip. The red marks are everlasting mementos of our masters’ cruelty. I used to dream of mutiny, revolting against the people who kept us aboard. Then I wonder, what about the ones who die, are thrown overboard, or executed? Who shall act as our providence and save us from such a death? Only those who have endured this would side with us and surely we would lose. Why had this happened? Were they simply punishing us for our race?

Today, I looked at skin in a way I never did before. It disgusted me. I stared down at my arms and legs. They were the tint of mud, stained like dirt, the color of a moth or rotting potatoes. It was the cause of my pain. I was angry- not only at skin, but also at my parents, the white men that control this world, and everything else I could think of. If I weren’t black I wouldn’t be sitting in this dark abyss, sweating from the others’ body heat in the middle of winter. I wouldn’t be fed this slop, using an overflowing bucket for a restroom, or dying slowly at such a young age. I wouldn’t have been separated from my parents. I wouldn’t be here now- afraid, lonely, and waiting to arrive at a destination I’m unsure of. The loneliness makes me miss everyone- even the people I despised. I just want to feel safe. I miss my family and friends and I cannot bear to think that they are going through the same things I am right now.

I have never loved my brother more than I do now. Abdu, I pray to see you again one day. Grandmother Etana, I wish with all my tears to be in that little hut with you again. You all were my security blanket. Here I have none and everything is so overwhelming. I am not sure I can take it any longer. I have awful nightmares and I always wake up with sweat and tears dripping off my body. At least I had one good dream while I was here. I dreamt of Africa, and it was beautiful! I saw everyone again. I could no longer taste blood on my tongue, hear the screaming and groaning of insane elders, or reach out to touch a dead person’s cold and rigid skin on any side of my body. For once, there was grass instead of water licking a boat and tossing it around. I kissed the ground. I kissed brother, mom, dad, and grandmother. It was a perfect world. My life had gone right and I’d long since forgotten of these scaring memories. Yet then, I awoke that night to see an old man dying of a heart attack. His sparkling blue eyes turned grey as his spasms came to a cessation.

Would I have been better off shot by one of the white men? Would I rather stay here and wilt like a dying rose? Right now I do not know why I make myself endure this torture. My life will never be the same after living this way, so why even try to live? I cannot live a life wanting to kill myself, too cowardly to perform the deed. Yet, isn’t it cowardly in itself to hang oneself or fast until your body gives up. Maybe it is braver to undergo the suffering, but my body can’t take much more. All I know is someday I’ll be free- even if it is among the dead I wander, I won’t be here.

Asha Larai died on December 13th 1624, her hopes still high.

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This article has 40 comments. Post your own now!

AshTree said...
Feb. 26, 2011 at 12:40 pm
Whoever felt the need to give me one star, would you mind posting a comment, or are you just a coward?
alex_gold said...
Feb. 4, 2011 at 10:55 am
Wow! Definitely well written! You don't normally see people who write historical fiction, so props to you! Be careful, though, some parts seem a little modern. All in all, great job!!! :)
AshTree replied...
Feb. 4, 2011 at 3:58 pm
Thank you!!!!!! and I'm trying to smooth things out that are sticking out.
Midnight_Hum This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 1, 2011 at 2:47 pm

 My first question would be, is this a true story?

I liked the way that it was written for the most part, but I have two...preferences.

I would have liked it better if you had incorporated more dialogue, this would have made the story flow better in my opinion. And also, I felt that you were trying to cover a life in the timespan of a short story.  The subject, I felt, would have been better suited in a longer format.

Historical fictions really not my thing, but... (more »)

AshTree replied...
Feb. 4, 2011 at 3:57 pm
I've been seriously considering lengthening this, so I'm glad someone else had this opinion. And anyway, I don't think you were critical. Really, I'm a LOT more critical on myself than others. I could find a million things wrong with the story , but I force myself to keep it with little errors. I'm human. I sometimes forget that.
lucybrown2010 said...
Jan. 22, 2011 at 8:31 am

I'm not a very big historical fiction fan, but I still enjoyed your story.  It reminded me of what we learned about slaves last year and all the projects we had to do in our notebook; I think the thoughts of this young girl are extremely realistic as well, I could feel everything as I read your story. 

Keep writing!  :) 


AshTree replied...
Feb. 4, 2011 at 3:55 pm
wow. I'm just now getting back to you guys. haha. Thanks! And I will keep writing! I don't think the voices in my head would let me stop. just kidding...
Lacer said...
Jan. 11, 2011 at 2:06 pm
Very realistic and well constructed! This is something that I could see a little girl thinking from her diary self. The flaws would be she has a better vocabulary than most African-soon-to-be-americans. But the writing is great and I don't see any other flaws.
AshTree replied...
Jan. 11, 2011 at 7:03 pm
Thank you!
lovelycheese said...
Jan. 8, 2011 at 10:50 pm

I admire your daring ability to write in historical fiction in the first place. Not many Teen Inkers would do that.

First of all, the descriptions were great. I think it captures the historical setting pretty well. Although the word choice isn't entirely old-fashioned, but that's alright.

Overall, it's very well-written. Great job(:

AshTree replied...
Jan. 11, 2011 at 11:40 am
Thanks so much!!!
Hazel-daisy This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 7, 2011 at 3:11 pm
I liked it a lot overall. I liked the way at the end it was just one sentence to end the entry and the whole story was really moving. It was also very well written and well described aswel!! I like history and all so I really do love this piece!!
AshTree replied...
Jan. 11, 2011 at 11:40 am
thank you!!
Coffee said...
Jan. 3, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Me too.

I loved that (I've seen you on the forums alot, I think...) Normal I'm nto a big fan of historical fiction, I'm going to be honest. But I really liked that. It interested me greatly, and I liked that it was from a younger person's point of view. Keep on writing Ashtree!

(oh, and I loved the ending. bitter-sweet)

AshTree replied...
Jan. 3, 2011 at 6:16 pm
haha thanks! I like to try to participate in the forums a lot. Thank you for looking at my story!
Supriya said...
Dec. 31, 2010 at 12:31 pm
I actually loved reading it :)
AshTree replied...
Jan. 1, 2011 at 2:15 pm
thank you!!
Lyricsofmylife replied...
Jan. 4, 2011 at 1:51 pm

I like this piece a lot, it really describes and embodies how a young girl like that, timid and scared, really feels. I would have liked to see her get angry, but the whole entire story her emotions were one dimensional. I would also have like a little more depth and wished that you had made stronger character choices. Even at the end she was still questioning "Would it have been better if I was shot?"I think, pick one, your either glad that you weren't shot, or wish that you had. I lov... (more »)

AshTree replied...
Jan. 4, 2011 at 2:20 pm
thank you!!!! I am looking into creating a novel with this character and her journal entries and all the advice I can get helps. I have a ton of plot bunnies floating around in my head. I wanted to make her have contradicting emotions in my story, and it would be easier to show the transition between these emotions with several diary entries, though she couldn't write or speek nearly as well as this.
youngpilot replied...
Jan. 24, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Both of my younger brother are african american, and were adopted from around New York. The slave trade is an absolutly horrifc part of history that i really wish we could have never been a part of.

In Global, we were forced to watch the movie "Roots", based off the book. it is about an african teen who is captured and is forced into slavery in Africa. I would recomend it, but only to those with a very strong stomach because there are very grafic scenes, whcih are, unfortunatly, not ed... (more »)

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