Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor. 1976.
Love the voice. “Mama’s gonna wear you out.” It sings with authenticity with enough description to make the setting vivid without being overwhelming, and all of it is in Cassie’s voice (more or less), which makes it interesting as well as informative. The scene with the books made me cry. Moving prose but without being manipulative. The characters are merely reacting to the realistic situation in real ways—and it’s heartbreaking.
Despite this being an older book, there’s a moment where revenge tastes sweet. There’s the required line of “good thing no one got hurt,” but otherwise no moralizing. Not the first book to do this, obviously, but contrast it with those God-awful Elsie Dinsmore books, or the mostly awful rewrites ... how good to see evolution at work!
Taylor captures the racial tensions well, so even the crossing of a bridge becomes a skirmish in this tense war. So many strong themes of justice, right/wrong, etc. Yet all is woven to create a compelling and seamless plot. A true classic.
In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian 14-year-old Arnold (Junior) Spirit fights racism and his tribe’s anger as he tries to escape the alcoholism, depression, and death of life as a reservation Native American. I can see why this book received so much attention.
Forged by Fire is gripping! And excruciatingly painful to read. A few thoughts: I’m not sure if I bought...
Marjane Satrapi, author of Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood crafted a moving introduction. The importance of keeping a family story alive. I wonder, though, if this story would have more power in a different format?
In We Are the Ship Nelson combines fabulous paintings with rich text full of voice for a truly interesting look at the Negro League of baseball. The paintings are gentle, respectful, full of love with absolutely amazing use of light.
Bronx Masquerade. I’m torn on this book. My first impression was that the voice was good but not as good as Tyrell by Coe Booth, and that the book was a yawner. I couldn’t get into the world, couldn’t “see” it. I had that first problem, the seeing, all the way through even though I later found that the book was not a yawner at after all.
Absolutely Positively Not is a book about being gay (or not). I absolutely loved the short chapters. Proof Cheryl Klein (at Levine) didn’t edit it since she snarked at me once about having short chapters. She’d never let these wee chaps make it to publication.
Monster has an interesting form, but I’m not sure it worked for me. This book was told in a combination of diary and screenplay, both supposedly written by the protagonist, Steve. I bought that a kid could be on trial for something he maybe didn’t do...
Esperanza Rising is a moving story that opens a world seldom seen with authenticity, and without seeming politically motivated. Real, not a soapbox.
Ok, time for a rant. I haven't ranted in a while, have I? Well, maybe. Even so, a rant is due so here it is:
The chapter on Du Bois: Do we have a reliable narrator? Du Bois is introduced as “one of the greatest scholars the world has ever known.” First we have the issue of a lose definition of scholar (what is a scholar, exactly?), and then the absurd grandiosity...
If a culturally rich adaptation of a classic tale is going to be on a required reading list for any MFAC program, I think it should be Yeh Shen.