The chapters alternate between the points of view of each character, an approach that simultaneously offers a wide view of plantation life and an intimate look at the daily realities of each of the Stolen. Asim shows the constant state of being under siege — the menacing tactics of an enslaved foreman, a Thief’s pickling of a man as punishment, the torment of a woman because of her Thief’s sexual advances. Yet he tempers the storytelling with coveted moments of tenderness ... sits within a rich oeuvre of historical fiction that centers the lives of enslaved people, situating their experience in the context of American history. The novel’s explorations of love and survival, blended with its examination of violence and servitude, call to mind Alex Haley’s Roots and, more recently, Robert Jones Jr.’s The Prophets ... What sets Asim’s book apart is the way Yonder portrays the spiritual resilience of enslaved people ... Though I was at times unsure of the sexually aggressive stance many of the Stolen women in the novel exhibit while selecting their partners, initiating or demanding satisfaction, Asim never strays to the horrid trope of the hypersexualized Black woman. I believe his portrayal offers agency to these enslaved women, giving them the often-denied ability to choose when and with whom to be intimate. With his handling of Black love, showing how it existed amid the worst circumstances, tender and memorable, Asim delivers a fresh, sweeping, must-read tale ... shows that dreams and Black love have always been tools of survival in the quest to reach that better place just out of reach.
" Members of the Stolen take turns driving the plot; rich and vivid stories are their only saving grace ... Asim vividly captures the daily rhythms of the Stolen’s lives, in which harshness is punctuated by brief spells of joy. As the enslaved embark on a soaring adventure in pursuit of freedom, a gripping and satisfying crescendo caps this lyrical story.
Jabari Asim brilliantly takes horrific details of the Black American experience of slavery and breathes life into them. He adds depth to the nameless monochrome images, offering vivid strokes of color and encouraging readers to commit to a deeper understanding of the lasting impact of being a person held in captivity ... The chapters alternate between the points of view of each character, allowing readers to hear their voices and understand their thoughts, hopes and fears. It renders them human as they navigate the abuse at the hand of their owner ... It is not depressing, just beautifully honest—offering hope and empowerment. It is the origin story that many have been deprived of and in some cases didn’t know they needed. It spotlights the voids in their realities by exposing holes and chasms where family and evocations of life experience should be. Despite the agonizing details, learning about them is critical to developing compassion and a deeper understanding of the Black American experience.
Asim weaves together these five voices in lyrical prose. He is a gifted storyteller, first building the world in which his characters are bound before setting in motion their united mission toward freedom. Throughout, the five main characters wrestle with their doubts, beliefs and hopes for something more. Yonder reminds us that even in despair, love and the human spirit can endure.