Tuesday, January 8, 2019

YA Book Review: This Promise of Change by Jo Ann Allen Boyce & Debbie Levy

This Promise of Change
Subtitle: One Girl's Fight for School Equality
Author: Jo Ann Allen Boyce & Debbie Levy
Publication: Bloomsbury Children's Books (January 8, 2019)

Description: In 1956, one year before federal troops escorted the Little Rock 9 into Central High School, fourteen year old Jo Ann Allen was one of twelve African-American students who broke the color barrier and integrated Clinton High School in Tennessee. At first things went smoothly for the Clinton 12, but then outside agitators interfered, pitting the townspeople against one another. Uneasiness turned into anger, and even the Clinton Twelve themselves wondered if the easier thing to do would be to go back to their old school. Jo Ann--clear-eyed, practical, tolerant, and popular among both black and white students---found herself called on as the spokesperson of the group. But what about just being a regular teen? This is the heartbreaking and relatable story of her four months thrust into the national spotlight and as a trailblazer in history. Based on original research and interviews and featuring backmatter with archival materials and notes from the authors on the co-writing process.

My Thoughts: This is the story of a little known (now) part of the Civil Rights Movement. In the fall of 1956, twelve black students entered Clinton (Tennessee) High School as the first desegregated high school in the South. Jo Ann Allen Boyce was fifteen and one of those students.

She lasted through an eventful semester with riots, Ku Klux Klan cross burnings, and national attention. She also personally dealt with harassment from other students and a strong sense of isolation and fear as she went to school.

Finally, her family gave up and moved to California both for a better education for their children and for better job opportunities for the parents too. Jo Ann was interviewed a number of times during the months she was attending school in Tennessee and after she moved to California too. She continued, and continues, to visit schools and speak about her time as one of the Clinton 12.

Her story is told in verse in quite a number of formats including forms from free verse to haiku to a variety of rhyme schemes. The use of poetry really highlighted the intense emotions of the time and the trials Jo Ann and the other Clinton 12 faced. Through it all, Jo Ann's faith and optimism shine through despite all the obstacles she faced.

The timeline of the Civil Rights Movement at the end marks the milestone of desegregation but ends with the depressing note that segregation still exists in many parts of the United States.

Favorite Quote:
John Kasper
is a stranger to Clinton,
a man from up North,
a young man
not so many years out of high school himself.

John Kasper
came to town last week
to tell white folks
that integration is un-American and un-Christian.
The story of the Clinton 12 is the story of doing something hard to help people who will follow in your footsteps. It's about doing something that is deeply uncomfortable to you but that you know is right. It's about the choice between being a follower and being a leader. And it's about maintaining dignity and pride under duress. 
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from the publisher. You can buy your copy here.

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