Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
by Mildred D. Taylor
This book! I just loved it. Through the eyes of a young African American girl named Cassie Logan we see the mounting racial tensions in a small Mississippi community in the 1930s. With her brothers, parents, and grandmother, she lives on a small farm that her family has owned for years.
I love the richness and diversely of the characters throughout the book. We see things from Cassie's point of view but we get to meet Jeremy, a young white boy who loves the Logan family and just wants to be part of it. We see his sister, who is naïve about her actions, a clear product of the prejudiced world in which she was raised. We see Cassie’s hothead Uncle Hammer and the damage that his attitude can have by escalating an already terrible state. We see the hopelessness of the sharecropper’s plight as they try to fight peaceably against the discrimination they are facing. We see Mr. Jamison who tries to stand up for them against the fellow white neighbors and we see the risk he’s willing to take. Each person plays their part, however small, in the fight against injustice.
The characters of T.J. and Stacey were particularly powerful. Stacey is in the midst of becoming a man and must learn how to deal with the anger and frustration he feels. T.J. is making the wrong decisions in life, but you’re left hoping he learns his lesson before it’s too late. I also loved the strength and courage of Cassie’s mother. She raises her children to have self-respect and quietly stands her ground as a teacher in the local school.
I can't believe I missed this book when I was younger. Although I went back and found a copy of another book that I loved when I was in grade school, called “Mississippi Bridge” and realize that not only is it by the same author, it's about the same characters!
I feel like this book would perfectly as a companion piece with To Kill a Mockingbird. It deals with the same issues in a similar time frame, but shows them from the opposite culture’s point of view. Cassie’s experience mirrors Scout’s, while Stacey’s mirrors Jem’s. The contrasting experiences would provide a great opportunity to give the issue more depth for students.
BOTTOM LINE: I loved it. The wonderfully written, diverse characters were empathetic and complex and made the book a must for my young adult keeper shelf in my library.