There are a couple of reason why I chose to read this book.
1. My brother called one night and suggested that we do a family book club. He thought that we could all read the same book and then when some of us get together we could discuss it. Wow! What a great idea. We don't have to be limited to time and location to enjoy a book club as a family. I was readily ready to get this activity going. Mark had recently finished reading Elizabeth and Hazel and when he told me about it, we decided that would be our first book.
I immediately emailed my siblings and my children and invited them to join us. My daughter order the book and said she could see this book club taking place on several levels - me and my children might meet at different times than me and my siblings and the discussion could take place in two or three different settings. Love this idea.
2. A few years ago I attended the Book Festival at the Salt Lake City library. I had an hour to kill before the book and author presentation I wanted to attend so I decided to grab a good seat in that room and listen to whatever was being presented. I knew it was a lady that would be talking about the civil rights movement and I wasn't interested. Jump to present day - I have no idea what the presentation I wanted to hear was but I remember well the presentation about the civil rights. Carlotta Walls Lanier was one of the Little Rock Nine and wrote the book A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School. I was so impressed with Carlotta. She was dignified, sweet, and matter-of-fact. She told the story in a way that wasn't filled with hateful, accusatory remarks about what happened to hear. After her stirring remarks was a question and answer period where we learned some incredible things that I had never heard about. One was that the governor of Arkansas closed all the schools in Little Rock the year after the Little Rock Nine so that the U.S. Government could not force the all white schools to accept blacks. Carlotta received a standing ovation. I cried as I shared parts of her story with my husband that night. I cried 2 weeks later when I told my sister about the Little Rock Nine.
After that brief introduction as to why I chose to read this book, let's talk about the book. The picture on the front cover is of Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan. The picture on the bottom of the cover also shows Elizabeth and Hazel back in 1958.
Elizabeth, the 16-year-old black girl, was walking into Little Rock High School while other students and parents yelled and pestered her. Hazel is the 16-year-old white girl yelling so hatefully at Elizabeth. The book tells their stories. Both were victims of the deep South way of thinking and the time period in which they lived. There were lots of times I found myself feeling grateful that I wasn't raised in the south. Or in Nazi Germany, or any other place where children are indoctrinated with such hate for other human beings. I would hope that I wouldn't have been so hateful and prejudice but if I'd been taught that way all my life I probably wouldn't have behaved any differently than Hazel did. I felt empathy and sympathy for both.
That said, my heart was ripped open by what Elizabeth had to endure that day. The other 8 black students were contacted to meet and they would go together to school, but Elizabeth didn't get the message. So she rode the city bus and then walked the rest of the way to school herself. When she tried to enter the school the guardsmen would not let her enter so she was forced to walk to the bus stop and wait for the next bus to take her home. Reading this account is chilling.
This is definitely a book worth reading and I hope my children will read it. Now I need to get my hands of Carlotta's book.