Tuesday, August 29, 2017
One Book About Racism Everyone Needs to Read
I know of them. I follow them a little, from friends' Twitter streams, and things I read on the news.
But in the last year, my hands have been full in a smaller, local way that doesn't give much energy for larger scale following. Still, I want to pray more. I want to care more.
And the book I just read may be a first step towards doing that.
My first time reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, for a curriculum that I'll be teaching this year, moved my heart.
It's a book everyone needs to read.
The Book (description below and above cover from Goodreads)
Why is the land so important to Cassie's family? It takes the events of one turbulent year—the year of the night riders and the burnings, the year a white girl humiliates Cassie in public simply because she's black—to show Cassie that having a place of their own is the Logan family's lifeblood. It is the land that gives the Logans their courage and pride—no matter how others may degrade them, the Logans possess something no one can take away.
This isn't a book that homeschool families might pick up naturally. The language is grittier--even that the children use. The story is a dark one, with a destructive character arc. It's not a light, summer read. Even the escapades that the children go on have darker, sinister undertones because of the prejudice that existed at the time. They might play a joke to get the better of a white child, but that could unravel a whole string of tragic events if they weren't careful.
At nine years old, Cassie has been protected by her parents from thinking she is "less than" because she isn't white. But Cassie is gradually going to more places outside her home. In the wider world, she finds that she isn't treated fairly, and her parents can't always defend her, no matter how much they love her.
The daily walk to school, where they're splashed by the white kids' school bus and then ridiculed. Having to call a white girl "Miss". Not getting served at the stores. Hearing of neighbors receiving burn injuries from white men and never put on trial for it. Black people receiving the death sentence for white men's' crimes. These are heavy themes. They're themes that are dealt soberly and truly with, but also through the eyes of a 9-year-old protagonist, which takes some of the edge off for younger readers.
The ending is a vital and important ending for a book tackling the racial injustice issues. It is not happy. It is not easy. It is eye-opening. It grips your heart and leaves you angry at the injustice the characters grieve over. For issues like this, the ending must not carry a comfortable conclusion. It must leave the reader dissatisfied and restless, ready to get up and do something about it all. It's not a call to entertainment. It's a call to action, to look and be appalled, and ask the question, "Is this still alive today?"
Racism is a blot upon the church. This book can be a tool used to introduce children to the tragedy and horror of racism at the appropriate time, so that they, too, can have a heart for the oppressed. I don't know all the ins and outs of the modern fight against racism. I see things that concern me about it. It requires more research and more thought. While this book might not be for everyone, I appreciate what I learned from it for my own heart. It will be a privilege to guide a discussion of this book in the upcoming school year, and fit it into a picture of how Christ would have us treat all people created in God's image.