Tuesday, June 28, 2016
The Hurston & Hughes Literary Circle is in the full swing of summer reading. They have created a rhythm to their conversations and even in the midst of giggles, questions about history, and even some frowns, they have grown to appreciate the place of literature in helping them understand their place in American history.
This year is the 40th Anniversary of Mildred D. Taylor’s seminal book, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. In this sweeping family saga, we meet the Logan family and encounter their resilience and tenacity to remain independent in a south that threatened the very freedom of African-Americans in the years after the wars. We met Cassie Logan and admire her fierce determination to not cower to society norm’s and stand for what she believes is right, we see the budding womanist in her and envision her now as a grandmother standing strong for her family like her Big Ma and Mama in holding onto family land, tradition, and place in the face of racism, classism, and a system refusing to let go.
The young people read her book and engaged in discussions of the theme of freedom and independence, economics, wealth, generations, ownership, discrimination, and racism. They also began a timeline of American History with specific notation of events that had a long-term effect on the place of Africans in the United States.
Mildred D. Taylor wrote a gripping story featuring fully actualized characters without venecular, and derogatory images. In her work, she introduced hundred of young black children in 1976 to the possibility of them being the hero in their own life story and that they, too, could write authentically. Jacqueline Woodson credits reading this book at age 13 with helping her decide to become a middle and YA writer.
We highly recommend this book for its accessible language, strong historical presence, and brilliant storytelling.