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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice

This is an excellent book. It won the National Book Award, is a Newbery Honor book and its list of accolades continues.

I picked it up from my local library (it was on display) because I knew I'd be meeting Phillip Hoose at the Indianapolis Children's Literature Festival.

I don't particularly love reading about the Civil Rights movement. I have great respect for the leaders of the movement, and great loathing for its opponents. It's a sensitive subject to me because it happened so recently, there are so many horrible and violent stories about/from it, and civil rights should never have been a question. I will freely admit that I have abandoned some historical fiction books set in this era  -- for some reason reading fiction about it seems so . . .  I don't know. You don't make up crap about Civil Rights. Bad stuff really happened, really. So. (That said, I have read and approve of Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, The Help, and To Kill a Mockingbird.)

I opened it up wondering if I was going to be able to finish it. Would it be saccharine? Would it be stomach-turning? Or could it hit the mark?

Alysa and Phillip Hoose, author of
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice.
I ATE IT UP. I brought the book to the dinner table. Someone alluded to the "no books at the table" rule and I said, "Hang on a minute, she's testifying."

Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat on the bus. She was within the bounds of the law, but outside the bounds of local culture. Did people call her "Rosa" for it? No. It was before Rosa Parks's stand and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It very probably inspired Rosa Parks, since they became acquainted shortly after Claudette's wrongful arrest and conviction.  That's once toward justice.

Twice toward justice: She testified as a key plaintiff in Browder vs. Gayle -- the trial after the boycott that finally did the trick. She was a teen, a junior in high school when all this stuff began. Claudette's emotional journey throughout the book is the keystone in the book's arch from Jim Crow to justice.

I would read this book with kids.

I would give it to teachers, friends, and people who sometimes hate to read about Civil Rights.

Phillip Hoose;
I asked and he said it is pronounced "hose." :)
Phillip Hoose flips back and forth from his own narration to interviews with Claudette (who is still living). When I met him I told him I admired the way that he had told the facts and left out the gory details, somehow making the text true and powerful without making it overwhelming. How did he walk such a fine line so well? He said he knew Claudette would read it, and his editor. "Other eyes would be on it," he said, and he trusted them to let him know if he was balancing it right.

Really, I can't recommend it enough. It's an excellent example of why I love Juvenile Non-fiction. I bought it.

UPDATE (6/24/2014): Here are some links, in case you would like to buy this book from Barnes and Noble or Amazon. I have recently become an affiliate, so if you purchase the book after clicking my links, I will receive a small commission.
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice from Amazon.
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice from Barnes and Noble.

4 comments:

  1. Oh Wow! This sounds great. Thanks for writing about it. It's a very good point you make about being able to tell what happened without it taking us to a place where it is all too much. If you think Civil Rights Era had horror stories ask Corey to tell you about the literature he was required to read for a class that detailed the plight of African Americans in the 1920's. He has a much larger threshold than I do for sadness and "gory details," but those books were just unbelievable. The times were unbelievable.

    Have you seriously not read To Kill A Mockingbird though?!? Alysa! I am going to have to get on my soap box for you the next time we talk... That book changed my life! Really!

    Although... it sounds like the next time I will see you will include some type of present for me, so I am inclined to let you off easily.

    Thanks for the great post.

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  2. No, no! As stated above, "I HAVE READ ..." Those three are books I recommend. I didn't bother to name all the books I haven't read or don't like. Everead is a happy space.

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  3. I loved this book - I had it out on my desk at my elementary school library in Boston and kids kept asking me about it. It's an eye catching cover (the paperback not quite as much, in my opinion).

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  4. I never really read children's or YA literature, even when I was one of those, but I added this to my list now that I've got to be thinking about sharing with a little one someday.

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