Wednesday 8 June 2016

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry wasn't a well known book for me. I came across it in my 1001 quest, and have seen it in a few lists about the place since then. I'm so glad I got to read it, it's such an amazing book. I'm just sorry that it took me too long to read- 3 weeks for really quite a short book, but I just haven't had the time for reading these past few weeks. It's a mark of a great book that it can still shine even when the reader is forced to neglect reading as much I have been recently.

A story of a black family living in rural Mississippi in the early 1930s, which was a tough time of course. Our narrator is 9 year old Cassie the only daughter of the Logan family. Cassie lives with her three brothers,  her mother and grandmother in a small house on land bought by her grandfather after the abolition of slavery. The family grow cotton on their farm, Cassie's father is forced to leave the family home to work on the railway, while her mother teaches at the local school.

The writing is splendid, and there is a lot of tension and suspense, with a constant threat of nocturnal violence.

The lead car swung into the muddy driveway and a shadowy figure outlined by headlights of the car behind him stepped out. The man walked slowly up the drive. 
I stopped breathing. 

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is an incredible account of the systemic racism of that era. Black children went to segregated schools. Their schools were only open from October to March as the children were needed to work in the fields by their poor sharecropping families during the growing season. While the white children started school in August. The white children are driven to school in a school bus, while the black children are left to walk 1 to 3 1/2 hours to school each way. All things designed to repress the black kids before they even got any sort of start at an education.

Author Mildred D. Taylor used the oral history told to her by her father to create a series of nine books about the Logan family. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is a powerful exploration of ingrained, systemic racism, no mere casual racism here, but a deep hatred and sanctioned contempt at a time when violent criminal acts were condoned and ignored. Sadly these feelings have echoes today as we still need social campaigns such as BlackLivesMatter.

There are things you can't back down on, things you gotta take a stand on. But it's up to you to decide what them things are. 

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