Chronicles the lives of four "free people of color," descendants of African slaves and their French and Spanish owners who lived in Louisiana before the Civil War. The story focuses on Marcel Ste, Marie, his sister Marie Ste. Marie, and their close friends Anna Bella Monroe and Richard Lermontant as they confront the transition from adolescence into their uncertain social positions as adults in 1840's New Orleans.
Sixteen-year-old Marcel is the copper-skinned, blue-eyed son of plantation owner Philippe Ferronaire and Philippe's black mistress, Cecile. Strikingly handsome, and raised in privilege, Marcel strives to live up to his father's expectations. He is also blissfully ignorant of a future that Cecile fears is doomed -- for only in Europe can a young man of mixed heritage be assured the education and the freedom he deserves. Philippe promises Marcel a prized education in Paris, and Marcel is determined to achieve it.
When a famous novelist and free man of color, Christophe Mercier, returns to New Orleans to open a school, Marcel jumps at the chance to attend and be educated by his idol. Meanwhile, Marie is being sought after by an affluent and highly regarded friend of Marcel's. Her happiness is at stake because of others' darker plans for her; like her mother before her, to enter into "placage," the practice of white landowners keeping "colored" women. Marcel, through his education with Christophe, is making his own pilgrimage to adulthood when it is decided that he should master a trade to support himself instead of completing his studies. Marcel revolts and seeks the truth about who he is and who he is supposed to become. LessChronicles the lives of four "free people of color," descendants of African slaves and their French and Spanish owners who … More