Mildred D. Taylor, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Puffin, 1991.
Sometimes history is more present in historical fiction than in history books. This is true in Mildred D. Taylor's Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. In this book Taylor describes what it was like growing up in a poor, black family in the deep south during the depressions years(1930s and 1940s). The author was born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1943 but grew up in Toledo, Ohio. She won the Newberry Medal in 1977 for this book.
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is well-written and draws you into the world of nine-year old Cassie Logan who lives in Mississippi during the years of segregation. It portrays the horrors of racism, night riders, and "extreme hatred." Cassie becomes aware and the reader how she is considered less than whites. There is no bitterness or anger in Taylor's portrayal of the situation of the Logan family. The reader does feel the injustice of this world. The reader quickly sees this world of racism, hatred, and humiliation through Cassie's eyes.
The story is gripping in itself. The Logan family actually owns 200 acres of their own land. This is the exception for the black families in the novel. Most of them are sharecroppers who can never get out of debt from their creditors. When the Logan family tries to help these black families, they are punished. Whenever a black person seems to step out of his place, the night riders ride to deliver vengeance.
This is a good book to learn what it was like to live as a black family in the Jim Crow south. I read it aloud to my family. My daughter is thirteen and our triplets are ten. There are some horrible scenes, like the burning of blacks who step out of line. The book is written for grades six through ninth. The word "nigger" also appears in the text. The portrayal of this world could be upsetting.