Riding Freedom by Pam Muñoz Ryan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Riding Freedom starts a bit slow, but by the end, I wished there was more. Maybe the author kept it short for a young audience, or maybe there's just not a lot known about our subject, Charlotte/Charlie, the heroine of this historical fiction/biographical novel. Whatever the case, I was left with questions about her life.
We know she lived as a man until she died and never married or revealed her secret. But I wondered if her childhood friend ever returned to help her run the ranch that was their dream together, and if so, how he would have dealt with the knowledge of her secret. How would he have treated her--as a man, or a woman? Was she transgendered? We will probably never know that, as I don't think that was recognized at the time. It's impossible to know if Charlotte became a man because she always identified as one, or simply to gain some measure of freedom in a time when women were little more than house slaves.
Though this book is short and simple, it left me with some disturbing reminders of how oppressed women were, as little as a hundred years ago or so. To have even a bit of freedom, just do do what one loved, Charlotte had to become a different person. Not just a different person, but a different sex. Just to be allowed to ride a horse, do a job that she was seemingly gifted at, she had to give up who she was and a large part of what she was.
It's a sobering comment on a woman's life then, that Charlotte's only choice was to give up all that she loved and wanted and dreamed of, or to become a MAN. That's a pretty drastic choice. There was no way for a woman to do what she loved with her life, unless what she loved was to stand around a hot kitchen baking for the men folk all day. What kind of life is that? It's no wonder men didn't want that job...and didn't want women voting their way out of it!
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