Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Book 5 of 2014: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

As I’ve already mentioned, at the beginning of the year I fell a little behind on my reading for my course which resulted in my having to read three of my set texts in quick succession. It’s not really my favourite way to read books like this; I prefer to reward myself for reading a set text by reading something I actually pick. At the end of January/beginning of February I just had three books that I wanted to get read as quickly as possible so I could get on with the required course work and move on to writing essays. The first two of these books were Swallows and Amazons and Tom’s Midnight Garden, the third that I needed to read for this particular block was Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.

This is a book by Mildred D. Taylor, published in the mid-70s but set during the 1930s. It follows life in the Logan family through the eyes of Cassie, the nine-year-old girl, as her eyes are opened to the way that her neighbours and community see her and her family because of the colour of their skin. According to my course materials, Taylor wrote the book in response to race-related events taking place in America during the seventies, but it was heavily influenced by the author’s own familial experiences.

Although it took me a little longer to read than Tom’s Midnight Garden, I got through it very quickly. Mainly because I didn’t want to put it down. I remember deciding to just start reading this late at night right after finishing my previous book, figuring I’d just read one chapter to get me started and then wanting to read on, even though it was already late.

This is a really hard-hitting book. When I was at work I’d find my mind wandering back to think about the events I was reading about and even after I finished it I found myself dwelling on it for some time. Even though I chose not to write about it for the TMA for this block, I ended up coming back to it for my EMA.
I think that one of the reasons why it stuck with me because it’s so shocking to think that people could treat other people like that, purely because of their skin colour. What’s even more frightening is that behaviour like that actually still goes on. Even though it’s set eighty years ago, it was influenced by events which were occurring as recently as forty years ago, and today there are still people who say the most disgusting things online. I like to think that these beliefs aren’t as widespread as they once were, but I’m not sure that’s the case, perhaps the hatred has just been redirected onto different groups.

I think it’s really important for children to read books like this one because it is so shocking. I like to think that a preteen reading this will help to formulate their own opinions about how to view people of different races from themselves. I think that it helps that it’s written from the perspective of an African American girl trying to fathom out why her white neighbours treat her the way they do; their actions seemed equally unfathomable to me.

I did feel like this book ended very abruptly. At the beginning of the story the family, while not wealthy, are fairly financially stable, but by the end they are obviously going to be in some financial difficulty. I understand that part of the reason for ending the book here is because it really highlights the uncertainty that the family will be facing. But it does leave me wanting to know more. I suppose that shows that the ending is effective, but by the same token, it’s a little frustrating.

I understand that Taylor wrote more about the Logan family and I would definitely be curious to read more about them, especially if the other books deal with the events after those in this book.

I would certainly recommend this book. While I’m planning on selling a few of my books once I get the okay that I’ve passed the course, I suspect I’ll hang onto this one. I’d like to read it again as well as others by Mildred Taylor. My one complaint about this edition of the book is that it has a kind of foil effect on the edge of the cover, that after one trip in my bag was sort of wrinkled and didn’t look so pretty anymore. It’s a minor complaint but it bothers me when nice shiny books look old and worn too easily.

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