Time's Memory

Julius Lester

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Amma is the creator god, the master of life and death, and he is worried. His people have always known how to take care of the spirits of the dead – the nyama – so that they don’t become destructive forces among the living. But amid the chaos of the African slave trade and the brutality of American slavery, too many of his people are dying and their souls are being ignored in this new land. Amma sends a young man, Ekundayo, to a plantation in Virginia where he becomes a slave on the eve of the Civil War. Amma hopes that Ekundayo will be able to find a way to bring peace to the nyama before it is too late. But Ekundayo can see only sorrow in this land – sorrow in the ownership of people, in the slaves who have been separated from their children and spouses, in the restless spirits of the dead, and in his own forbidden relationship with his master’s daughter.
How Ekundayo finds a way to bring peace to both the dead and the living makes this an unforgettable journey into the slave experience and Julius Lester’s most powerful work to date. Time's Memory is a 2007 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.


Read an Excerpt

From Time's Memory
I lay within the body of the woman who was called Amina
and I listened to the silences between the beats of hearts that
beat no more and the wind in breaths that no longer breathed.
I saw with eyes that were only sockets in skulls. Though I was
no larger than the twinkle of a star, I already knew that lives
did not consist only of what happened during one's brief span of
years. No. Each person is the sum of the generations that went
before, generations of people whose names have been forgotten,
whose faces have sunk below where memory can go. Yet those


Praise for Time's Memory

"This is a novel of healing, and a seeming culmination of Lester's scholarship and faith in humanity.  Not to be missed."  --Boxed, Publishers Weekly
"Absorbing." --Washington Post Book World
"Lester makes the history immediate . . .the beautifully individualized characters reveal the lies of slavery."  --Booklist
"Could be useful as part of a unit on slavery, or in a Black History class."  --VOYA
"Lester has created a rich, complex and rewarding novel."  --Kirkus Reviews
"This is a powerful novel for mature readers. Fraught with sorrow, brutality, triumph, and joy."  --School Library Journal
"Intense and profound.  Lester's unapologetic insertion of spiritist reality into the everyday life of the slaves will undoubtedly move young people into a deeper understanding of the roots of African-American ideology and faith."  --The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Fascinating."  --Chicago Tribune

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Julius Lester

  • JULIUS LESTER has written more than forty books of fiction,
    nonfiction, and poetry for children and adults. He lives in Belchertown, Massachusetts.

  • Julius Lester



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Time's Memory

Julius Lester

NCSS-CBC Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies, Parents' Choice Award Winner, Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year