Nearer My Freedom

The Interesting Life of Olaudah Equiano by Himself

  • Interest Level: Grade 5 - Grade 12
  • Reading Level: Grade 6

Millions of Africans were enslaved during the transatlantic slave trade, but few recorded their personal experiences. Olaudah Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano is perhaps the most well known of the autobiographies that exist. Using this narrative as a primary source text, authors Monica Edinger and Lesley Younge share Equiano’s life story in “found verse,” supplemented with annotations to give readers historical context. This poetic approach provides interesting analysis and synthesis, helping readers to better understand the original text. Follow Equiano from his life in Africa as a child to his enslavement at a young age, his travels across the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, his liberation, and his life as a free man.

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Interest Level Grade 5 - Grade 12
Reading Level Grade 6
Genre Young Adult
Category 5 Kinds of Nonfiction, 5KN: Narrative Nonfiction, Biography, Diverse Books: Race & Ethnicity, Diverse Books: Social Class, Diverse Books: Social Justice, Diversity, SEL: A Self-Awareness, SEL: B Self-Management, SEL: C Social Awareness, Social Emotional Learning
Copyright 2023
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Zest Books ™
Language English
Number of Pages 216
Publication Date 2023-03-07
Text Type Narrative Nonfiction
BISACS YAN006030, YAN038110, YAN043000
Dewey 306.3/62092 [B]
Dimensions 5.5 x 8.25
Features Author/Illustrator biography, Awards, Bibliography/further reading, Glossary, Index, Photo captions, Reviewed, Source notes, Starred Reviews, Table of contents, Teaching Guides, and eSource

Author: Monica Edinger

Monica Edinger is a retired classroom teacher and the author of the children's book Africa Is My Home: A Child of the Amistad (Candlewick 2013), which won the 2014 Children's Africana Book Award and Nearer My Freedom (co-written with Lesley Younge) which was a YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist. Monica is a children's book world influencer with a large following on her blog, educating alice. She has contributed reviews and articles for the Horn Magazine and The New York Times, served on several award committees, and published numerous books and articles for educators. She is based in New York.

Author: Lesley Younge

Lesley Younge is a writer, mother, and educator currently teaching middle school English and math in Washington D.C. Originally from Southern California, she graduated from New York University and Bank Street College of Education. Lesley has developed curriculum with a wide range of organizations such as the Central Park Conservancy, the Museum of Art and Design, the Montgomery County Lynching Memorial Project, the Zinn Education Project, and the National Museum of Asian Art. Now she is the author of two books for young people, Nearer My Freedom and A-Train Allen. A fellow of the Hurston/Wright Foundation and Anaphora Literary Arts, Lesley blogs regularly at

Lerner eSource™ offers free digital teaching and learning resources, including Common Core State Standards (CCSS) teaching guides. These guides, created by classroom teachers, offer short lessons and writing exercises that give students specific instruction and practice using Common Core skills and strategies. Lerner eSource also provides additional resources including online activities, downloadable/printable graphic organizers, and additional educational materials that would also support Common Core instruction. Download, share, pin, print, and save as many of these free resources as you like!

Nearer My Freedom

Millions of Africans were enslaved during the transatlantic slave trade, but few recorded their personal experiences. Olaudah Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano is perhaps the most well known of the autobiographies that exist. Using this… View available downloads →

Nearer My Freedom: An Interview with Co-Author Lesley Younge

Nearer My Freedom: The Interesting Life of Olaudah Equiano by Himself by Monica Edinger and Lesley Younge has earned recognition with five starred reviews and praise from industry professionals. This new release explores Olaudah Equiano’s life story—his childhood in Africa, enslavement,… View →

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  • NCTE Notable Poetry Books and Verse Novels List, Winner, 2024
  • Dogwood Readers Award Finalist, Short-listed, 2024
  • Booklist Top 10 History Books for Youth, Winner, 2024
  • Children's Africana Book Award Best Book, Commended, 2024
  • Center for the Study of Multicultural Children's Literature Best Books of the Year, Winner, 2024
  • Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Books of the Year 2024, Winner, 2024
  • ILA Children’s and Young Adult Book Award Honor Book, Commended, 2024
  • Boston Globe Best Books of the Year, Winner, 2023
  • Booklist Top 10 Biographies & Memoirs for Youth, Winner, 2023
  • School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, Winner, 2023
  • Shelf Awareness Best Books of the Year, Winner, 2023
  • YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults, Short-listed, 2023
  • EUREKA! Children's Book Gold Award, Winner, 2023
  • CYBILS Award Finalist, Short-listed, 2023


Children's Literature Comprehensive Database (CLCD)

“This combination of “found poetry” from Equiano’s autobiography and other writings and non-fiction essay reveals the depth of feeling held in Equiano’s heart as he suffered through kidnapping, transportation across the ocean to strange countries, and a desperate search to understand his place in a new and strange world. Reviewer Rating: 5"—Children’s Literature


“This flawless and well-composed performance is an invaluable addition to youth collections, giving listeners the important story of a truly remarkable man.”—starred, Booklist, audio book published by Listening Library

School Library Journal

“[T]he story makes for compelling reading that moves quickly. . . . This important and unique work introduces this pivotal man to a new audience and will make for interesting classroom discussions.”—starred, School Library Journal

Shelf Awareness

“Monica Edinger and Lesley Younge—former fourth grade co-teachers—brilliantly transform the autobiography into ‘found poems’ by cutting and rearranging Equiano’s original into verse . . . Their deft transformation of Equiano’s odyssey is well-equipped to inspire and empower new generations.”—starred, Shelf Awareness

The New York Times Book Review

“This moving found-verse adaptation of the formerly enslaved Equiano’s 1789 memoir makes a seminal work of history accessible to young readers.”—New York Times Book Review


“In this unique work of nonfiction, Edinger and Younge transform the words of Olaudah Equiano’s 1789 autobiographical slavery narrative into found-verse poetry. . . . [An] absorbing, singular creation.”—starred, Booklist

Publishers Weekly

“Without losing the source text’s emotional heft, Edinger and Younge’s visceral poems respectfully provide an effective entry point into the seminal work.”—starred, Publishers Weekly

Kirkus Reviews

“Highly readable as well as informative. An excellent way to understand a remarkable individual and his times.”—starred, Kirkus Reviews