Monday, March 7, 2011

Claudette Colvin Review

Book talk: Everyone knows the story of Rosa Parks: how she refused to give up her seat and inspired the Montgomery bus boycott.  But have you ever heard the story of Claudette Colvin, the fifteen-year-old who refused to give up her seat nine months before Rosa Parks?  Claudette was sick of witnessing injustices every day and seeing the adults around her do nothing to fight them, so she decided to do something about them herself.  Claudette was mistreated and arrested for refusing to give up her seat and went to court in two separate cases to fight bus segregation.  The second trial, Browder vs. Gayle is what led to the desegregation of buses in Montgomery and ended the bus boycott.  She was only fifteen and sixteen during these trials, but she was a passionate activist and found the courage to stand up in the face of injustice under the threat of violence that quieted voices all around her, and she succeeded in changing history.

Rocks my socks: This is an amazing story that I had never heard of before.  Not only is Claudette's story inspiring, but the events surrounding the bus boycott are fascinating as well.  Most of the stories I had heard about it were just that, stories out of America's folklore.  The full background to the boycott and the details surrounding it are enlightening and surprising.  Large chunks of the story are also told in Claudette's own words, in excerpts from extensive interviews that the author conducted with her.  This really helps to give a sense of what these events were like when they were happening.  This isn't an idealized version like the ones I was used to.  There are aspects of the story that are harsh and questionable, but it is all the more inspiring and interesting for these imperfections because it makes it easier to connect to.  Flawless heroes are easy to admire, but hard to empathize with.

Rocks in my socks: None come to mind.

Every book its reader: 6th grade and up.  I think this is a story that should be put in as many teens hands as possible.  It would work especially well in a classroom setting to allow for discussion and so that its context within the larger lens of the history of the civil rights movement can be explored.  However, the book does do a wonderful job providing background and establishing context so it doesn't have to be taught in a classroom to be appreciated.  This is an engrossing read for people of all ages and there is plenty for adults to learn and enjoy in it as well.

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose

Buy it at your local independent book store or check it out from your local library

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