February 19th, 2017 by Karen
Last week, we highlighted this year’s Coretta Scott King Award recipients. This week, I want to recommend a past winner: The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon. If you’re looking for a book that will give you a window into black history during this Black History Month, look no further.
The story takes place in Chicago in 1968, a time of great political turmoil and a pivotal time in the civil rights movement. Sam, the book’s protagonist, is the son of a famous civil rights leader who is aligned with Martin Luther King Jr.
But Sam’s older brother, Stick, is tired of speeches and non-violent protest. He joins the Black Panthers, another activist group that believes black people should reclaim their rights and provide for their own communities by more extreme means if necessary.
And Sam is caught in the middle. What will he do when a friend gets in trouble with the police — treated unfairly because of his race? Will Sam continue to support his father’s approach, or will he follow Stick on an exhilarating — but also scary and dangerous — new path?
I should warn you: There is some violence in this book. But more than that, there are some parts that are really, really troubling and sad. (The publisher recommends this book for ages 9-14.) But that’s part of our country’s history we need to know. And though this story is fictional, I think it provides important insight into real-life events and struggles — which in turn reminds us what we should all continue fighting for today.
Have you been reading any new books for Black History Month? Leave a comment with your own recommendations!
Karen also really enjoyed One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. If you’re interested in learning about the Black Panthers but you’re not sure about The Rock and the River, check out One Crazy Summer!