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3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  213 Ratings  ·  64 Reviews
Born on Emancipation Day, 1863, to a sharecropping family of black and Indian blood, Elijah Yancy never lived as a slave — but his self-image as a free person is at war with his surroundings: Spartanburg, South Carolina, in the Reconstructed South. Exiled for his own survival as a teenager, Elijah walks west to the Nebraska plains — and, like other rootless young African-A ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published September 8th 2009 by Counterpoint (first published 2009)
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Sara You asked this question some time ago, but perhaps it will help others. This book would provide an excellent starting point for discussing freedom…moreYou asked this question some time ago, but perhaps it will help others. This book would provide an excellent starting point for discussing freedom among different races and how slavery didn't really end with the Emancipation Proclamation. In the first chapter, Elijah says "Before emancipation we were slaves, and after we were sharecroppers. If there's someone reading this who knows the difference between a slave and a sharecropper, please send a message to the colored folks in Spartanburg, cause I'm sure they'd be interested." It could also prompt discussions about personal/government property rights—both related to Native Americans and the establishment of national parks. A few cautions for a middle- to high-school audience: the word "n—" is used liberally and there are some overt sexual references. Despite war being the backdrop for most of the book, the book was not particularly violent (there are one or two more intense scenes, but no worse than that audience would see in video games). (less)

Community Reviews

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Sep 20, 2011 Cheree rated it really liked it
Gloryland by Shelton Johnson is the story of Elijah Yancy who is born on Emancipation Day in 1863. He is the son of sharecroppers who live in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Unfortunately they quickly learn that in the South emancipation did not mean equality.

Elijah's background is interesting in that he is both black and of Indian descent. As a teenager he witnesses a lynching and soon after he must leave the South in order to be spared his own life. He walks until he reaches Nebraska where he end
Feb 08, 2010 Mike rated it really liked it
If you've watched the Ken Burns documentary The National Parks: America's Best Idea then you know that in the early days of Yosemite the only defense against sheep herders, loggers, and poachers was the Federal army which assigned a regiment of Buffalo Soldiers to patrol the park. Gloryland is a historical novel that follows the life of one of these soldiers from his childhood as the son of South Carolina sharecropper to his soul-saving assignment in Yosemite. Elijah Yancy is an allegorical char ...more
Sharyn L.
Nov 21, 2009 Sharyn L. rated it it was amazing
I had the pleasure of meeting Shelton Johnson at an REI where was doing a presentation about Yosemite. He was "in character" as Elijah Yancy. A truly moving and wonderful evening. I couldn't wait to read his upcoming book, Gloryland. So much history, so much love of nature. While I'm not a huge fan of reading poetry, it works in this book and adds depth to the story. I'd recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Yosemite, the Buffalo soldiers, national parks, nature, and a good story. B ...more
Jan 09, 2010 Diane rated it really liked it
Each chapter in this book reads almost like poetry. This is not a gripping book, certainly not in terms of plot, but reading it chapter by chapter left me with a feeling of insight into the daunting world of being black, male, and strong-minded at the end of the 19th century in the newly "free" south. The book is supposedly about the experiences of one of the first African-American park rangers (the first ones were US Calvary soldiers) in Yosemite, but only the last few chapters touch on the nar ...more
May 13, 2012 Patty rated it really liked it
I really think Shelton Johnson did a great job describing the "feel" of Yosemite and the Sierras. His prose is vivid and lyrical:

"It was a high meadow so close to the sky that the blue of heaven began to stain the plants below. You could see it in the high grass and flowers with the blue of the sky in their petals. Sky was so close there, maybe it was leaching its color, so after a rain the plant just pulls it from the air and gets drunk on it, waving back and forth in the breeze, giddy with in
Jul 09, 2016 Annette rated it really liked it
Story of a black man in the South who knows he must leave or die at the hands of those believe he is less than a man.
Elijah Yancey leaves home and after four years of wandering, joins the US Army to protect our first National Park- Yosemite. Elijah is transformed by the stark, raw beauty of this land.
Jan 05, 2017 Carrie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gloriously written, this is a love poem to Yosemite. Lyrically gorgeous, Shelton Johnson creates wonder through his words. Using descriptions ripe with metaphor, Johnson made me want to revisit Yosemite in order to sleep beneath the endless stars. "Something bout the place seeps into you like the cold of a creek or the sun's heat soaking into granite. It gets to you and into you." It is also an honest and brutal depiction of racial prejudice after the Civil War.
Nov 04, 2016 Love2read rated it really liked it
Well done fiction using historical facts. It made me imagine the life of a Buffalo Soldier quite well.
Jun 21, 2012 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gloryland, a recommendation from Kelly Johnston, engaged me from the start. We see the action through the eyes of the main character, Elijah Yancy, a man born on Emancipation Day, 1863. Even though he is born free in the strictest sense, he is never really free until he lives his home in South Carolina to travel north and join the military. He finds his spiritual home when he goes on patrol in Yellowstone Park. This is despite his work of keeping the Park free of intruders such as sheep herders ...more
Oct 19, 2012 Christie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: i-own, 2012
This book took me a very long time to finish, but it really forced me to slow down in a way that a book hasn't for a long time. I kept coming back to it though. It is not very plot heavy and the timeline is heavily weighted in some areas and skips through others. It reads like drawn out poetry. I definitely struggled to keep momentum at times but reading passages out loud helped. More often, I had to tell myself to stop marking my book because I realized I was just marking the whole page.

He pres
Mar 04, 2013 Angela rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
Gloryland by Shelton Johnson. Beautifully written. Johnson has way of bringing you into the story with his vivid and detailed descriptions of the character's thoughts and their surroundings. Here's a partial excerpt from the inside book jacket:

Born on Emancipation Day, 1863, to a sharecropping family of African and Indian blood, Elijah Yancy never lived as a slave, but his self-image as a free person is at war with his surroundings: Spartanburg, South Carolina, in the Reconstructed South. Exi
Kelly Johnston
Mar 23, 2012 Kelly Johnston rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I highly recommend this novel about an African-American young man whose parents forced him to leave their home in the deep South, so that his father's hands, which had held him at birth, would not have to also hold him at death. Elijah travels alone west, joined the Army, and became assigned with his "buffalo soldier" troop to guard the newly created Yosemite Nat'l Park and surrounding areas. There are parts of this book that are pure poetry. Such as: "Some places you live in, but there're some ...more
Perrin Pring
Aug 05, 2015 Perrin Pring rated it liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
Having seen Shelton Johnson's live program about the Buffalo Soldiers, I was greatly intrigued to read Gloryland. I must confess that I was most interested in the parts taking place in Yosemite, and I was somewhat disappointed as only about one third of the book actually takes place there. The rest of the book describes Elijah Yancy's life prior to him reaching Yosemite.

I think the most interesting thing I learned from Johnson is how a black man in the late 1800's would find entering the milita
Jul 17, 2012 Jordan rated it really liked it
A good read for an author's first novel. I enjoyed how Johnson weaved history into his story, so well that the main character could well have been a real person. The story covers a lot of ground from Emancipation Day to the founding of Yosemite National Park in California. Although the story dragged on in a few spots, I found the book to be a pleasurable read. As a history fan and a National Park fan, I was very excited by the storyline. I look forward to reading more by this author in the futur ...more
Feb 19, 2011 Kilat1 rated it liked it
I knew Shelton Johnson as one of the memorable National Park Rangers in Ken Burns' most recent documentary series. This books is roughly based on the life of his great-grandfather who was a buffalo soldier and one of those who patrolled Yosemite NP around the turn of the century to protect it from poachers, loggers, miners, etc.

A young black man struggling with his sense of identity in Reconstruction Era South Carolina, leaves on foot and eventually joins the US Cavalry in Nebraska. Continued st
Apr 21, 2010 Nancy rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Gloryland is the story of Elijah Yancy who was born in South Carolina on the day the Emacipation Proclamation was signed, but as the son of black sharecroppers in the South, he always understood that he wasn't really free. Forced to leave home in his teens, he eventually joins the US Cavalry and becomes a Buffalo Soldier. A soldier in the Army isn't really free, either, but when he gets assigned to patrol Yosemite National Park he finally feels like he has found a place where he can be at home a ...more
I noticed this book at the gift shop in Yosemite and decided to borrow it from the library. It's about Elijah Yancey, born in the South just after the official end of slavery. As he grows up, he discovers he can't live in a town where the mere fact that he walks on the sidewalk that the whites expect is only for them creates a threat to his family. He sets out on his own cross country, signs up for the Calvary, and ends up patrolling Yosemite on horseback. The book is written in the format of a ...more
Jul 01, 2011 Mac rated it really liked it
If you saw the Ken Burn's National Parks series, it's not hard to recall USNP Ranger Shelton Johnson and his touching accounts of personal moments in Yellowstone and Yosemite. In his first novel, Gloryland, Johnson shares a riveting philosophical journal of post-emancipation life for a slave's son as he makes his way across a torn and wounded landscape to become a Buffalo Soldier protecting Yosemite. A great read for those that seek rich historical writings in our American experience, lovers of ...more
May 04, 2015 Elizabette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
This novel tells the story of Elijah Yancy, the son of sharecroppers in the post-Civil War South. To make a better life, he is forced to leave his family and make his way north... where he joins the U.S. Cavalry, Ninth Regiment. His story follows American military events and leads him to an assignment in California's Yosemite Park— where he finds himself inspired by the epic beauty and majesty of the place. Part narrative, part introspection, Elijah's tale is representative of the real-life stor ...more
Jan 11, 2010 Dnicebear rated it really liked it
Oh, wow, I can hear Shelton's real voice as I read his written words, and, especially when the story happens in Yosemite, I can smell and see all the places. I met Shelton ten years ago through my own ranger husband who worked with Shelton in Yosemite. I love the way Shelton loves his characters and the places they live. Shelton can be both mystical AND grounded. One of my favorite parts is when Elijah finds freedom (and it's in Yosemite in 1903). "A colored man running in the wild and no one ch ...more
Apr 29, 2016 Amanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a beautiful book to experience. In my notes that I recorded last year upon finishing this book I wrote, "I'm not sure anything I write could adequately describe this book. At the end the story goes that the narrator is trying to describe something we need as humans, need in our life. He uses the word beauty but says how that word doesn't even capture it. I love how this book is a glimpse of the hardships and struggles, the evil of life, but how God can restore and make whole; but ho ...more
May 10, 2014 gaudeo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A meditative, lyrical historical novel, largely centered around the experience of African American soldiers in Yosemite National Park around the turn of the twentieth century. Some of the language is beautiful, but almost all of the narration focuses on the protagonist's inner thoughts. There is very little plot, even when, as part of the Ninth Cavalry, he is supposedly fighting Indians on the plains. Too little in the way of plot, in fact, which hampers the reader's ability to understand what t ...more
Aug 14, 2013 Lacy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I bought this book in the Yosemite N.P. bookstore after spending a week in Yosemite and before a long train trip. The book is much about Yosemite in the end and I loved knowing the scenery that the author was describing in the book, and appreciated the outpouring love he had for the area - something I had just acquired. The historical learning from the book was great, too - about buffalo soldiers, the south after the Emancipation Proclamation, the Indian War, etc. - that's something I always lov ...more
Jun 21, 2010 Hedlun rated it liked it
I liked this book in many ways. Particularly, it was a new angle on what it means to be black in America. Johnson's deft use of imagery and similes in the early parts of the book impressed me, though sometimes their quick succession seemed out of rhythm.

I will admit that I expected more of a plot and did not give that up until too late in the book, by which point I had a hard time not feeling disappointed at the lack of one.

Nonetheless, reading "Gloryland" gave me a yearning to visit the mount
Aug 02, 2010 Nancy rated it liked it
I really wanted to love this book; the language is lovely, the images are poetically described, the voice is so unique, and the various descriptions of how it feels to be black are so touching. However, I suspect that I simply need more plot, and the book certainly fell short on that score. I found myself skimming pages (and more pages, and more pages)as Shelton Johnson continued to explore God, home, family, and humanity as it pertains to Yosemite. This book seems to be the epitome of the term ...more
Sep 05, 2014 Marty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found "Gloryland" a joy to read.

Shelton Johnson's writing's provides narration and poetry about Elijah Yancy and his journey from his life in South Carolina to becoming a Buffalo Soldier.

Shelton Johnson's poetic description of the astonishing beauty of Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks as seen throughout the eyes of Elijah Yancy will warm your heart while dreaming of such beauty.

A very good read!
Dec 08, 2010 Jay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In a rare reading of a work of fiction by me, I am thrilled that I finally read this book. I first saw this book on display at both Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks when I as driving across the country last year. I was intrigued by the book's story as well as by the author himself and his biography - he is an actual working park ranger, who also happens to be an incredible story teller and writer. Wonderful read and language, beautifully crafted, but condense and succinct.
Ann Marie
Apr 02, 2016 Ann Marie rated it liked it
I purchased the book in Yosemite after going on a tour with Shelton who is a gifted story teller. He writes beautifully and I enjoyed both the prose and the historic aspects of the book. I would recommend it but it does lack a story that keeps you engaged - so my pleasure in reading reflected a combination of having met Shelton, the beauty of Yosemite, an interest in history and just enjoying it as a series of reflections more than a plot that pulls you deep inside.
Oct 07, 2010 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was fortunate enough to meet Shelton Johnson furing my first trip to Yosemite. He is an amazing storyteller, and his eloquence shines through in this novel. As a Ranger, sharing the story of the buffalo soldiers in Yosemite has become his passion, and the tale he has crafted here reflects that. This book is both heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. I highly recommend it!
Nov 01, 2010 Pat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books that I cautiously selected at the library, not knowing what to expect. I will be purchasing my own copy of this, not only for the wonderful writing, language and phrasing, but for the moving story of a man finding himself and learning what freedom really means. Time and again I found myself wanting to earmark a phrase; Shelton Johnson has a beautiful way with words.
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