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The Personal History of Rachel Dupree

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  1,967 Ratings  ·  430 Reviews
"An eye-opening look at the little-explored area of a black frontier woman in the American West." --"Chicago Sun-Times"
Praised by Alice Walker and many other bestselling writers, "The Personal History of Rachel DuPree" is an award-winning debut novel with incredible heart about life on the prairie as it's rarely been seen. Reminiscent of "The Color Purple," as well as th
ebook, 336 pages
Published August 1st 2010 by Penguin Books (first published May 28th 2008)
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Mar 10, 2014 Anna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-checkout
Rachel works as a cook at a boardinghouse for negro men who work at the slaughterhouses in Chicago. The boardinghouse is owned by Mrs. Dupree, a widow. When her son Issac returns from military service he sees an opportunity to gain more land for his homestead claim by marrying Rachel. She is infatuated by Issac and agrees. So begins their life together in the Badlands in South Dakota. Issac continues to buy land from those who csnnot sustain their ranches. For Issac land is everything. Rachel su ...more
Jun 20, 2015 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story was filled with a variety of dynamics not usually combined together. It is what makes this book so interesting! Weisgarber sets the stage of a Negro woman/family's life owning a cattle ranch in the Badlands of South Dakota in 1917. A far cry from the Historical Fiction books from the Civil Rights or Slavery era I find myself reading a lot. Based on the Homestead Act, Weisgarber combines fact and fiction is this wonderful enlightening story of Rachel DuPree's life. I thoroughly enjoy i ...more
Feb 05, 2016 Piyali rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
10 pages into the book I realized I had read this before. But instead of putting it away I re read the story with same eagerness and intensity that I had read it the first time. A black family trying to make it in the Badlands is almost like a revolt in itself against society's perception of the black people in the early twentieth century. Rachel Reeves is a cook at a boardinghouse in Chicago when the son of the owner, Mrs Dupree, Isaac comes for a visit. Although Mrs Dupree has dreams of Isaac ...more
Jun 14, 2011 Brooke rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the story of Rachel Dupree, a black woman pioneer living with her husband and their five children in the Badlands of South Dakota. Isaac, Rachel's husband, is a hard man, determined that his children will never have to bow and scrape to the whites. In Isaac's mind, owning land is the only insurance against this. Rachel, who is nine months pregnant, is less certain. In their fourteen years in the Badlands, they have lost two children. Life in South Dakota is stark and mean and Rachel mour ...more
Linda Johnson
Apr 29, 2016 Linda Johnson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book!
It was unusual due to the fact that it was about a black ranching family in the Badlands of South Dakota (I was born and raised in North Dakota and can totally relate to the harsh weather conditions.) during the early 1900's.
I only wish I knew what happened to Rachel and the kids once they returned back to Chicago. Perhaps there will be a part 2?
Mar 07, 2015 Trudy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Simultaneously heartbreaking and enjoyable story of a black family's struggle to survive the Badlands in the early 1900's. Powerful characters. Very engaging read.
Zohar -
Nov 17, 2011 Zohar - rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
The Personal History of Rachel DuPree by Ann Weisgarber is an award-winning fictional book taking place in the Badlands of South Dakota. The book follows the tough life in that area.

Sixteen year old Chicago resident Rachel Reeves works as a cook and experiences discrimination not only from whites, but from the élite African-Americans as well. However, Rachel is a proud woman who idolizes Ida B. Wells-Barnett, a fearless crusader and anti-lynching activate. When her boss’ son, Isaac, returns from
Tara Chevrestt
The time is 1903. The setting is Chicago. Rachel is working as a cook in a boarding house, living at home with her parents to whom she hands over most of her paychecks to, and there are no marriage prospects in sight unless she wants to settle for a slaughter house worker and still be a cook in a boarding house ten years down the road. So when a fine fellow, Isaac Dupree comes around talking about 160 acres of South Dakota land, Rachel pretty much proposes to him. The deal: She gets her own 160 ...more
Maya B
This was the story of Rachel and Isaac and the struggles they endured in the Badlands. I felt that this was a very depressing book to read. The relationship that Isaac and rachel had felt more like an arrangement and not a true marriage. It was so much hardship, that the entire time I was reading I was hoping for some happier moments. Also, I did not like the ending because it felt rushed and I wanted closure with this couple.
Shari Larsen
Apr 03, 2011 Shari Larsen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the story of Rachel Dupree, wife of one of the few African American ranchers in the South Dakota Badlands in 1917. As the story opens, Isaac is lowering their six year old daughter Liz into the well to fetch water in the midst of a terrible drought. Rachel knows it must be done, yet at that moment, she questions her loyalty to Isaac, whose ambitions to own more land seems to come ahead of the needs of his family. Rachel, who is pregnant with her eighth child, has to decide whether to sta ...more
Nov 23, 2011 Patty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this tale of a woman who basically sells herself into her marriage for 160 acres of unforgiving land in the South Dakota Badlands the reader sees the strength of the American homesteader.
Rachel Reeves was working in the kitchen of Mrs. DuPree's boarding house when Isaac DuPree comes home in his Army uniform. Rachel falls in love but Isaac has one thing on his mind; homesteading in the Badlands where he can stake his claim to 160 acres of land. To him land is everything. Rachel reminds him tha
Aug 01, 2011 Holly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm working my way through the Reader's Choice Nominees for this year at the Library and The Personal History of Rachel DuPree is my favorite so far!

I just finished reading this heartbreaking story and I desperately want to know, "What happens next?!!!" The novel is very well written. I could hardly stand to put it down. I wanted to get to a happy ending! I wanted everything to finally work out for Rachel!

I loved going back in history and getting a feel for life in the United States in the ear
May 24, 2012 Danielle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I quite liked this book, and was very impressed with it for being the first novel of a non-writer (by profession. She wrote a book, so obviously she's a writer). The voice of the narrator, Rachel, was engaging, and she did a great job weaving the past events of her life into what was happening now. The author was also a master of showing, not telling, and you were able to get a detailed picture of relationships and personalities from very brief exchanges.
I loved the setting, both of place and ti
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
This is the kind of book that makes me joyful as a reader. It's immediately engrossing, it illuminates a life that is otherwise foreign to me, and paints real landscapes and situations I've never experienced. Set in 1917 at a ranch in South Dakota by the Badlands, the story is told by Rachel DuPree, an African-American woman who married an ambitious man, whose entire identity and self-value is tied up in the land he owns. The book opens with a punch: a longstanding drought requires the extreme ...more
Jessica McCann
Ann Weisgarber’s debut novel has received many accolades, all well-deserved. Your heart will ache -- with love and despair, with wonder and disbelief, with hope and pride.

The Personal History of Rachel Dupree tells of life in the South Dakota Badlands in the early 1900s, when the last parcels of land in the U.S. Homestead Act were divvied up -- land so barren, remote and harsh that few had the fortitude and stubbornness to tame it. Anyone could make a claim to 160 acres -- even a single woman o
Rarely have I experienced a historical novel such as this one. Ms Weisgarber has chosen to champion black women in the undeveloped and barren wilds of the Badlands, and she does it with a sensitivity that will break your heart, sparking feelings you didn't know you possessed. "The Personal History of Rachel DuPree" is a mightily rendered novel, it left me wondering how I could have held my breath such a long time.

One thing was certain and universal throughout this book and that was the push-pull
Jan 09, 2011 Ciara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-ve-read
I am a huge fan of pioneers. I love history, and I really enjoy stories of women's struggles with the land. This one was just a little too distant for me. Rachel was too quiet as she struggled through her own personal recognition, and while I was happy with her decision in the end, I just couldn't figure out why she wasn't pushed to a breaking point much sooner! After sixteen years, my husband surely would've heard my opinion once or twice. A friend disagrees completely, and says "if you were a ...more
Ginny Messina
Oct 12, 2011 Ginny Messina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stories about pioneer women enduring the hardships of the plains are a dime a dozen – and I can never get enough of them myself. This one is unique in that the protagonist is black, which creates another layer of loneliness on top of the usual loneliness that so many of these women endured. There are also Rachel’s complicated feelings toward her husband, who is an interesting and complex character in this story. (I still haven’t decided whether I like him or not.)

The book takes place in South D
Nov 25, 2011 Marg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recently, I was asked the question 'Why do you read historical fiction?' I think my answer was something along the lines of being able to eavesdrop on history. Really, the answer could have been to read books like this to find out about little known facts from history. My knowledge of homesteaders in America is very limited and I certainly hadn't given any thought to the fact that there were African-American homesteaders,or to the life that they and their families would have lived.

To read more o
Jul 22, 2012 Lynn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed this. It tells the story of life on the American Prairies early 20th Century and the hardships suffered, particularly by the first black settlers. I feel a bit bereft now it's finished...! Highly recommended...
Sep 09, 2015 HC rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: african-american
Even if the presentation of some of Rachel's memories was a little forced, I was drawn into this story from the beginning. I couldn't help but sympathize with this woman who arguably shamed herself for the sake of infatuation and the hope for a better life than cooking for a bunch of smelly slaughterhouse men and a hateful boss. I have scarcely any sympathy for her husband, but also wonder if he is just a product of both his upbringing and the propaganda he must have been fed by the military. I ...more
I've had this book on my reading list since 2009. This year I determined I needed to make an effort to go through and read some of these older books on my list.

I can't remember where I heard about this book or who recommended. But re-reading the book description I was excited to pick this up. My opinion has changed.

I am having a really hard time liking or warming up to any of the characters. Rachel although her intentions are good. Has seemed a little slow on the uptake to the real character o
Hope Sherman
Oct 22, 2011 Hope Sherman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a good read....very spare and unflinching in its telling, quite evocative of the time and place where this takes place. Dakota prairies had the name badlands for a reason - and the life that Rachel is so thrilled to have with Isaac is indeed bad. She doesn't realize how bad it is until she looks at it through her children's eyes. They are all under Isaac's spell of doing what needs to be done, constantly working with very little pleasure in their lives. Isaac is so sparing with his praise and lo ...more
Sep 22, 2010 Peggy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes historcal fiction
I really enjoyed this book. It is about a strong Black woman, who sets out from Chicago with her husband, a former Army soldier, to homestead on the South Dakota frontier. They each have an alottment of 160 acres, where they ranch and raise a family. The husband, Isaac, is very ambitious and soon they have more than 2000 acres of land. As the book begins, they have had many good years, but a severe drought has nearly brought them to ruin.

Rachel is a very strong woman. She has 5 childen alive
Jul 21, 2013 Sarah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a mix of unnecessary drama and depressing events, and somehow, despite all that, NOTHING HAPPENED.

Reading it felt like watching later seasons of Gilmore Girls - the plot and events were contrived and based on "cliffhangers" that had no basis in reality. Rachel worries about how her husband is going to react to various things (hint: he usually reacts badly). Rachel apologizes to her husband for his reaction. Rachel gets a letter from home and delays reading it for a day or two for
Sep 27, 2011 Danielle rated it it was amazing
Oh my. This has left me all full of emotions. What a hard story to tell, and yet how well done. I really liked this...I can't ruin it here but wish I had a good book club to discuss it with. Part of me thought "These is my words" by Nancy Turner- while oddly enough I had reminders of "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett all the while remembering bits of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Books. But this is not a set of books to compare and of course each are so wildly different. I guess there were a few threads ...more
Feb 17, 2012 Debbie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a good read. It was a wonderful book for historic education of this time period and the African American experience. I already knew quite a bit about the Buffalo Soldiers. What I didn't know was that when the country gave the incentive of land to people who would go and settle the west, African Americans were included. Sure I watched the movie Rosewood and have heard that towns of Black settlers existed but never have I found any fiction before this book that gives the point of view of ...more
Jul 13, 2012 Kkraemer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps I loved this book because I recently read In the Warmth of Other Suns and The Worst Hard Times, both of which told of a time and place that I knew so little about. Rachel DuPree and her husband are African American homesteaders in the Badlands of North Dakota. Life is harsh, to say the least: children die without warning, food runs short, the drought forces them to send their youngest down the well shaft, past the snake, screaming in terror, to try to scoop up a bit of water.

They're from
Feb 02, 2011 Lynn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
From Publishers Weekly
Weisgarber's atmospheric if unexceptional debut of pioneering hardships follows a staunch South Dakota farmwife as she struggles with misgivings about her ambitious husband. The story begins as Rachel DuPree, wife of one of the only African-American ranchers in the Badlands in 1917, watches her husband, Isaac, lower their six-year-old daughter, Liz, down a well to fetch water in the midst of a terrible drought. Though she concedes it must be done, Rachel--heavily pregnant w
The voice of Rachel DuPree drew me in on this one so it was a quick read. Very conversational tone, succinct sentences, written in such a way that you feel like you're listening to the innermost thoughts of the character. She does give you a lot of back story as she narrates, so if you're the kind of person who hates that, you might not like it. In this case, it didn't bother me because it worked for story.

It's about a woman who comes to realize (like duh) how the choices one makes for love, act
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Ann is the author of "The Promise" and "The Personal History of Rachel DuPree." She was nominated for England’s 2009 Orange Prize and for the 2009 Orange Award for New Writers. In the United States, she won the Stephen Turner Award for New Fiction and the Langum Prize for American Historical Fiction. She was shortlisted for the Ohioana Book Award and was a Barnes and Noble Discover New Writer.

More about Ann Weisgarber...

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