Saturday, May 7, 2016

Book review: "Roll of Thunder, Hear Me Cry"

"Roll of Thunder, Hear Me Cry" is a fine book for teenagers, or anyone who wants a good story and is willing to learn a bit about growing up black in the American South.

Mildred B. Taylor's story about an African-American family living in rural Mississippi in the 1930s takes a look at race relations on a personal, intimate
level. Told from the perspective of 9-year-old Cassie Logan, the story shows how Cassie, her brothers and her African-American friends begin to learn that life will be different, and difficult, for them simply because they are black.

The dawning is slow at first. Sure, the whites and blacks go to different schools, but that alone doesn't stir any anger for the children. In fact, the African-American children feel they might even have it a bit better, since they get to start school later in the year and finish earlier.

But the white kids get to ride to school in a bus, while the black children have to walk. And the white bus driver likes to spray mud-puddle water at the black children every chance he can. The unfairness begins to seep in to Cassie and her friends.

That is just the start. Piece by piece, Cassie and her siblings learn that life will never be equitable. They fear that white "night riders" might appear out of nowhere to attack their home.

Cassie's parents are caught in a dilemma, trying to teach their children about what is right and fair, while also preparing them to be treated badly.

The dialog for the most part rings true, but a few spots don't. Cassie's mother delivers something of an historical monologue on slavery and race relations that seems forced. Same thing for a section where Cassie's grandmother tells the family history to Cassie.

Still, it's a very readable book, with a nicely calibrated build-up to a dramatic finish.  You'll find yourself turning pages rapidly to see how it turns out.


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