Sugar Changed the World
Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos were inspired to write this book when they discovered that they each have sugar in their family backgrounds. Those intriguing tales inspired this husband and wife team to trace the globe-spanning history of the essence of sweetness, and to seek out the voices of those who led bitter sugar lives. As they discovered, the trail of sugar runs like a bright band through world events, making unexpected and fascinating connections.
“Meticulously researched, brutally honest, compelling … An indispensable part of any history collection.”
—School Library Journal, starred
Sugar leads us from religious ceremonies in India to Europe’s Middle Ages, when Christians paid high prices to Muslims for what they thought of as an exotic spice, then on to Columbus, who brought the first cane cuttings to the Americas. Cane–not cotton or tobacco–drove the bloody Atlantic slave trade and took the lives of countless Africans, who toiled on vast sugar plantations under cruel overseers. And yet the very popularity of sugar gave abolitionists in England the one tool that could finally end the slave trade. Planters then brought in South Asians to work in the cane fields, just as science found new ways to feed the world’s craving for sweetness. Sugar moved, murdered, and freed millions.
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This book began several years ago, when we were sitting on a stone patio in Jerusalem, and my husband’s cousin told us a fantastic tale of a relative whose personal history was intertwined with the story of beet sugar. I too had sugar in my family background, since my great-grandparents left India in the 19th century to work the sugar plantations of the West Indies. We were amazed that each of us, with ancestors from different parts of the world, was touched by this one substance. It then hit us that so many lives have been changed, transformed, and brutalized by this one ingredient. And so we went on the trail of history to find out more.
The making of this book is also a story, one that also includes many other voices. For two summers, as we were developing the material for this book, we gave a seminar for New York City school teachers at New York University’s Center for Teaching Excellence. Their input was invaluable as we honed our ideas and presentation. We also created another enhancement to the book: a music website that will feature music from ‘sugar culture’—all the songs and rhythms that grew out of this experience in places such as the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Trinidad. Ben Lapidus, an ethno-musicologist at John Jay College, is collaborating with us on this exciting project. To learn more, visit the website www.sugarchangedtheworld.com.
“Eye-opening.”—The Washington Post
“A bountiful feast.”—Chicago Tribune
“What schools need isn’t more nonfiction but better nonfiction”–Sara Mosle, The New York Times, “What Should Children Read?”
For more information about the book and to view film clips, hear music from the sugar lands, or download a Teacher’s Guide, please visit www.sugarchangedtheworld.com
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