Not many books make me seethe with anger. The injustice and blind ignorance in this story does, especially because the main plot is based on historical fact. Unfortunately the issue of civil rights is still relevant, alive and kicking even after all theses years.
I cannot even fathom treating others with such a level of contempt, hate and anger, just because they have a different skin tone to my own. Perhaps because I was raised to treat all people equally and base my interactions or judgements about them on their person, their words and their actions, and not on their race or religion. Children are not born hating others. They are taught to hate. Racism is indoctrinated into generations of people and they in turn repeat the insane cycle with their own offspring.
Again, I just have to repeat, I cannot comprehend how any person could think they are superior to another person based on the shade of their skin. It really does boggle my mind.
I wonder how many of these ‘white’ people read or watch history programmes or read books like this and recognise themselves in the role of the racist? Many of the teens, children and even adults involved in the events surrounding the civil rights movement are still alive. Do they still believe the mantras of the bigots or have they acknowledged any wrong doing on their part?
Talley has fed some of the frankly quite ignorant and insane statements people believed and repeated, during that time, into the story. For instance, ‘Negro brains are naturally predisposed to be submissive.’ Very reminiscent of eugenics during the Nazi era.
When you read the dates of events and realise that on the grand scheme of time we aren’t talking about very long ago. Based on recent events I would say there is still a huge underlying issue regarding civil rights bubbling beneath the surface of the US.
Talley has mixed two controversial topics together to create a firecracker of a story, which is meant to stretch the boundaries of your understanding of these issues. The reader practically sits inside the heads of both Linda and Sarah , thereby giving a complete view of the issue from both sides.
The events take place during the desegregation in schools in the late 50’s early 60’s. Talley has added the element of not only an interracial relationship, but also that of two girls. A triple whammy for the period of time we are talking about. Just so we are clear none of them should be controversial or a problem. Not race, skin colour or sexual orientation.
I can only imagine how scared the children and young teens must have been at the time. Walking through crowds of violent, abusive people, who were bent on getting rid of them no matter the cost. Being subjected to torrents of verbal and physical abuse, being spat on and called an assortment of demeaning names. Day in and day out, a war on the front-lines.
Within this story it becomes apparent that some of the children or teens being integrated into the school, feel as if they are being pushed into the part of role model and spearhead for the movement. Making a point on behalf of their parents, for the world and the future children to come. Under those difficult circumstance anyone would have crumbled and given in, however I am glad they didn’t. It also puts the civil rights movement into perspective. How courageous these people must have been to stand up for their rights and to weather this unfathomable hatred from each corner.
Sarah is a girl just like any other girl in the process of discovering her sexual identity. Her confusion, her guilt, her shame, all emotions that Linda shares, which shows the identical nature of the human beast, regardless of skin colour.
Linda fights with her own belief system, the reader gets a keen insight into her internal battles. She likes Sarah, more than likes her, which must mean Sarah is different from the rest, right? Of course eventually she comes to the conclusion that perhaps what she has been taught her entire lifetime is wrong. Wrong on every single level, and in turn that realisation makes her regard the people around her in a completely different way.
This is a book I would recommend as scholastic material to teach children what it is like to be confronted with racism, bigotry and hate. It will also give a good insight into the doubts of the indoctrinated few, who manage to free themselves from the repetitive cycle of hatred.
I could go on for hours and pages about how good I think this book is, which of course I recommend you read for yourself.
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Read As I Descended by Robin Talley