Revolutionary [NOOK Book]


“A novel of the American Revolution by a writer who is himself a true American revolutionary.” —Mark Edmundson, author of Why Teach?

In 1782, during the final clashes of the Revolutionary War, one of our young nation’s most valiant and beloved soldiers was, secretly, a woman.

When Deborah Samson disguised herself as a man and joined the Continental Army, she wasn’t just ...
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“A novel of the American Revolution by a writer who is himself a true American revolutionary.” —Mark Edmundson, author of Why Teach?

In 1782, during the final clashes of the Revolutionary War, one of our young nation’s most valiant and beloved soldiers was, secretly, a woman.

When Deborah Samson disguised herself as a man and joined the Continental Army, she wasn’t just fighting for America’s independence—she was fighting for her own. Revolutionary, Alex Myers’s richly imagined and meticulously researched debut novel, brings the true story of Deborah’s struggle against a rigid colonial society back to life—and with it the courage, hope, fear, and heartbreak that shaped her journey through a country’s violent birth.

After years as an indentured servant in a sleepy Massachusetts town, chafing under the oppressive norms of colonial America, Deborah can’t contain her discontent any longer. When a sudden crisis forces her hand, she decides to finally make her escape. Embracing the peril and promise of the unknown, she cuts her hair, binds her chest, and, stealing clothes from a neighbor, rechristens herself Robert Shurtliff. It’s a desperate, dangerous, and complicated deception, and becomes only more so when, as Robert, she enlists in the Continental Army.

What follows is an inspiring, one-of-a-kind journey through an America torn apart by war: brutal winters and lethal battlefields, the trauma of combat and the cruelty of betrayal, the joy of true love and the tragedy of heartbreak. In his brilliant Revolutionary, Myers, who himself is a descendant of the historical Deborah, takes full advantage of this real-life heroine’s unique voice to celebrate the struggles for freedom, large and small, like never before.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
As a former indentured servant in Colonial Massachusetts, Deborah Sampson (1760–1827) leads a constricted life. Frequently chided for her desire for independence, she reaches a breaking point and runs away. Tall and strong, she dresses as a man to escape and soon finds untold freedom, respect, and comfort when she joins the Continental Army as Robert Shurtliff. But there are risks as well. Besides the dangers of battle and the fear of being discovered, there is the effect on Deborah/Robert's sense of self: while increasingly comfortable at being Robert, the deceit of having to hide her true and complex nature takes its toll. The author is transgender and writes well about identity and gender, but sticklers for a historical voice may be disappointed. While based on true events and a real person, Myers's debut novel is more interested in Deborah/Robert's internal journey than in immersing readers in period detail. VERDICT Despite some flaws, this work offers a new take on historical accounts of transgender people; Myers explores not just how Deborah manages to pass as a man but her reasons for doing so.—Devon Thomas, Chelsea, MI
The New York Times - David Shribman
This is a bona fide and unforgettable Revolutionary War novel, much the way Esther Forbes's Johnny Tremain was, and Howard Fast's April Morning, too…an approachable, imaginative novel, a tale of muskets and masquerade, of marches and mutiny, that is also an evocative portrayal of life in the Continental Army, capturing the mixture of bravado and boredom of army life. It is hard to repress the thought that in pretending she is someone else, Mr. Myers's secret soldier is doing little more than what all soldiers do, quite literally putting on a brave face for battle…a remarkable novel.
Publishers Weekly
This deftly written debut historical novel from male transgender author Alex Myers follows a strong-willed young woman who takes a huge gamble and fights as a male soldier for the American colonists. Deborah Sampson is a 22-year-old indentured weaver who confides in her closest friend, Jennie Newcomb, about her desperate need to escape their oppressive small Massachusetts town. After surviving a sexual assault, Deborah dresses as a young man, skips town, and reinvents herself as “Robert D. S. Shurtliff.” She meets a recruiter and manages to pass herself off as a boy old enough to enlist in the Continental Army. Writing as Robert, she begins a correspondence with Jennie before Deborah marches with her regiment to their new military base at West Point. She befriends James Snow, an apprentice blacksmith and fellow private. Keeping up her male disguise proves tricky, but her army peers accept her as a full member of the light infantry. She likes the freedom and respect accorded a male enough to convince herself she wants to maintain her masquerade. Problems arise when Corporal Shaw threatens to expose her true gender before she makes a good showing during a British ambush. After suffering a tremendous personal loss, Deborah undergoes a change of heart about her role as a man (Robert), and as a woman (Deborah), in Myers’s original and affecting novel. (Jan.)
Robin Oliviera
“I raced through this vividly imagined tale, unable to put it down. It is a remarkable story of a quest for independence so unusual and startling that it is remarkable to know that it was based on the author's ancestor, a young indentured woman who discovered the freedom and ultimately the cost of becoming a man. Set during the Revolutionary War, it is teeming with insight, as astonishing as it is readable, a story that reveals the limitations women faced and the courage it took to defy them.”
author of Masquerade: The Life and Times of Deborah Sampson, Continental Soldier - Alfred F. Young
"Alex Myers' novel is terrific. The book is a page turner; it has characters you care about; and it is imaginative in the best sense of the word. Myers' recreation of Deborah Sampson at war is vivid and full of suspense ... I look forward to its success."
author of Windless Summer - Heather Sharfeddin
"Alex Myers' debut novel, Revolutionary, is more than an accounting of Deborah Sampson's amazing Revolutionary war feat of enlisting and serving a three-year tour in the army disguised as a man; it is an exploration of the irony of such circumstances. In following her true nature—who she is at heart—Deborah creates for herself a duplicitous life fraught with personal risk. This beautifully written account is a reminder that gender identity and the struggle for equal rights has always been with us. Perhaps now, in our time, we can set aside our biases and not simply ask how Deborah Sampson did what she did, but understand why."
author of Why Teach - Mark Edmundson
"A novel of the American Revolution by a writer who is himself a true American revolutionary."
author of The Problem with Murmur Lee and Before Women had Wings - Connie May Fowler
"Alex Myers’ debut novel is a marvel. Revolutionary explores the life of Deborah Samson who, passing as a man, fought in the Revolutionary War. In this exquisitely rendered fictional account, Myers paints a portrait of a complex woman whose tribulations and triumphs echo in our own time. This is a book about what it means to be a hero, a woman, and a person who refuses to accept the limiting roles society imposes. It also, deftly and with grace, explores the intricate and shifting boundaries of passion and love."
The New York Times
This is a bona fide and unforgettable Revolutionary War novel. … [An] approachable, imaginative novel, a tale of muskets and masquerade, of marches and mutiny, that is also as an evocative portrayal of life in the Continental Army.… Remarkable.
[Myers'] straightforward, clear prose lets the important and complex issues he raises shine through…thought-provoking.
The Boston Globe
A vividly detailed fictionalization of the true story of Massachusetts-born Deborah Sampson... Revolutionary succeeds on a number of levels, as a great historical-military adventure story, as an exploration of gender identity, and as a page-turning description of [a] fascinating life.
San Francisco Chronicle
"[An] evocative debut novel... Revolutionary, of course, is a work of fiction, not history, and Myers' great accomplishment is creating a moving version of Sampson's inner life."
The Advocate
"[Revolutionary] is an exciting account of a young woman who experiences the sudden freedom that comes with shedding the constrictions of societal gender norms at a time when such a thing was unheard of."
Kirkus Reviews
Myers' debut, a novel based upon the true life of a woman who disguised herself as a man and fought in the Revolutionary War, illuminates questions about gender equality and identity. In 1782, former indentured servant Deborah Sampson yearns to experience the freedoms that fall only to men, so she dons male attire and enlists in the Continental Army. After her original attempt to become a soldier is foiled, she tries once again, this time stealing away to a different town and adopting her deceased brother's name, Robert Shurtliff, as her own. Worried about revealing his secret, Robert works harder than most to master military drills, and he's proud when he and three other recruits are chosen for West Point's light infantry. He shares a tent with Tobias, a fellow book lover who excels with a needle and thread, young runaway Matthew and good-natured James, who teaches Robert how to spit. As the recruits learn to care for their muskets, shoot at targets and march in formation, Robert revels in his treatment as an equal and begins to react intuitively to situations as a man. (The author cleverly illustrates the transition through the interchange of feminine and masculine pronouns.) He sporadically writes to his childhood friend Jennie, who keeps him informed about events back home. Robert's military service is marked by hardships: long treks, constant fear of discovery, others' traitorous acts, brutal clashes on the battlefield and heart-rending loss; but he also experiences contentment: unconditional love from another, the regiment's spirit of camaraderie, acceptance by men as a person of value (which he believes was lacking when he went about life as a woman) and bravery on the battlefield. Myers' excellent research and skilled writing combine to create an absorbing story with an interesting protagonist and topics worth contemplating. The author presents a time in early American history when the social and legal ramifications of being born a woman or being transgender meant suffering in anonymity. Has anything changed? A fine debut.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451663358
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 1/14/2014
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 243,675
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Alex Myers
Alex Myers is a writer, teacher, speaker, and activist who has campaigned since high school for transgender rights. The first openly transgender student at Harvard, he worked to change the university’s nondiscrimination clause to include gender identity. He currently teaches English at St. George’s School, where he lives with his wife.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2014


    Deborah Samson is a local hero and taught in third grade in my town. So i was expecting some new insight on this character. I also thought the transgender pony of view would be more thought provoking. However, I found the book to be written more on a middle school level than an adult one; the premise was a good one but not well developed. In spite of this, the book did make for an interesting Book Club discussion.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 25, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Revolutionary is a real gem; it will make readers as well as his

    Revolutionary is a real gem; it will make readers as well as historians look at the Revolutionary War in an entirely new light.

    Beginning in Massachusetts in 1782, Deborah Samson is a young woman looking for adventure. On her own, she has left her church, her very good friend, Jennie, and no longer wants to wait on (or, as they called it in this small Massachusetts village), ‘serve’ men who disrespect her and all of her gender. She wants to join the Army and serve her country.

    Deborah starts out on her new adventure. Cutting her long hair, she dresses in boy’s clothing to enlist in the Continental Army in order to fight for her freedom. Changing her name to Robert Shurtliff, Deborah joins the Army and takes up the job of caretaker for the horses. Deborah eats beans gladly, because they’re better than what she’s used to, and prays to the Lord that she can keep her scheme up and be able to do her job as a boy in the Army. With her mind set, she and her cohorts set off for West Point, marching to a drummer’s beat.

    Deborah turns out to be a brave soldier under fire; some of her fellow soldiers make remarks like; “Good Man” and “Someday, you’ll make someone a fine husband.” In other words, the illusion is working. After being wounded, Deborah is taken to the Army Hospital in Philadelphia and then on to the home of Dr. Barnabas Binney to recuperate. Dr. Binney assures Deborah that even though he knows she’s a woman, it will remain their secret. However, when Deborah is well enough to leave the doctor’s home he gives her a letter to give to her commanding officer stating that she is a woman; he tells her, “The letter is for your commander, it declares who you are and I leave it up to you as to what you want to do. One should never be ashamed of their true nature and there are worse ways the General could find out than from your own hand.”

    Deciding to leave the Army as Robert Shurtliff, she does hand the letter to the General and tells him her story, hoping that – in the end – he will come to terms with her situation and why she chose to do what she did.

    Based on a true story, the tale of a woman living and doing the work of a man, Deborah is actually a distant relative of the author. Very much an in-depth story of the Revolutionary War, the research done by the author is an excellent account of both history and the lives of the people who lived through it.

    Quill says: In the 21st Century, Deborah’s story is a true battle for identity; proving to one and all that gender is not, and never should be, the foundation for honor and heroism.

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