This is one of the most remarkable books I've read this past year. It is actually two books in one. Interspersed within the storyline are primary source documents...songs, speeches, letters, news accounts, interviews, etc. The two parallel narratives are about the years 1964-65 in Greenwood, Mississippi, known as Freedom Summer. It's not a pretty story, reminding us of the racism, violence, hatred and fear of those days. It's about the work of COFO, and SNCC particularly, along with NAACP in the state of Mississippi. The historical documents take us back to the three young men killed on the first official day of Freedom Summer, the peaceful protests punctuated with arrests, beatings, and economic reprisals of that time and place. It's about the South's refusal to honor laws such as Brown vs. Board of Education. It's about the repression of voting rights, a concern that's back in the news today. The fictional story follows two white youngsters, stepsiblings, trying to make sense of the times. Their story is intertwined with that of a "colored" boy also trying to navigate the trying times.
At this time in our country when racism, voter repression, fear tactics, and other issues seem back in vogue for far too many people in too many places, this book is a reminder to the rest of us that we need to be brave and speak out. And that is something I am going to do, even at the risk of offending some "friends."
It is billed for teen readers, but I can attest to its impact upon an adult who lived through the '60s. I enjoyed a double dose because I had the good fortune to have access to both the print copy and the audiobook. I strongly recommend the audio, and if you can get your hands on it at a library, get the print and audio both. Also, I believe this book should be held in both formats in any library that serves teen readers. If I could give it an award I would.
PS I have not read the first book in Wiles' 60's Trilogy, this being the second. I will snag it ASAP. If you remember the '60s you might want to do the same.