Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Lions of Little Rock

I love Love LOVE this book.  I think it’s the best piece of historical fiction that I have read EVER . . .

Kristin Levine did a lot of research before writing this book found in the juvenile fiction.  Originally she thought she would do a story on the Little Rock Nine but as she was doing her research she learned about the WEC (Women’s Emergency Committee) and the STOP (Stop this Outrageous Purge) and the battle of Segregation/Integration and the closing of schools that followed the Little Rock Nine.

The author’s mother had left Little Rock in 1954 – three years before the nine were admitted to Central High.  She hadn’t had a first hand experience in the events explained in the story.

The story is told through the eyes of Marlee, a twelve – thirteen year old white girl who makes friends with Elizabeth – the new girl who is light enough to pass for white, but really she is what was then referred to as colored or Negro.  Today we say African American or black . . .

The junior highs in this story are opened, but all the high schools are closed.  Marlee attends junior high, but her sister attends high school. Judy (the sister), has a hard time with it as she would like to associate with her friends and perhaps get educated as well. 

Marlee also has a brother, David, who is away at college.  She loves her brother and sister dearly and misses David as he is at college and then misses Judy as she is sent away to live with her grandmother so that she is able to attend high school in another city.

Marlee is a math genius.  She loves numbers.  She’s not great with words however.  She hardly ever speaks.  Many of her peers just assume she’s mute.

Elizabeth (Liz) is quite outgoing and assists Marlee in overcoming her shyness.  They work on a project together and practice their parts.  Marlee’s greatest incentive is a “Magic Squares” math book which Liz uses for a reward.

But when it’s discovered that Liz is not white, both girls are forbidden to have any further contact with one another – which upsets Marlee’s world even further.  We are then introduced to WEC and STOP and the racial prejudices and the fears and taking a stand and “mixing races”

The title of the book has symbolic meaning. And there are questions at the end of the book.  Thought provoking questions.  And references to non-fiction material of events that occurred in Little Rock in the late 50’s and early 60’s. 

We’ve come a long way.  Unfortunately not everybody has been on board with the whole racial issue.  The Klu Klux Klan has thinned out tremendously, but there are still some active members.  I’d like to send each member of each group a pedigree of every member – prove to them that no one of them is pure. 
The whole racial thing has bothered me my entire life.  And Jenna yells at the top of her lungs, “What difference does it make?”

It shouldn’t make a difference.  And it’s sad that so many believed that it did – or still believe.  We are all children of God.  I don’t get the trials that so many have put themselves through due to skin differences.  How stupid!

I’m so grateful for those who have made a difference, who have carved a path to make it a little bit easier for those who followed.  I hope the prejudice dies and having a different skin, or religion, or favoring gender or a tattooed covered body doesn’t threaten anyone.  We’re all different.  And still, we’re all the same.

No comments:

Post a Comment