Thursday, October 1, 2009

Book Review: Warriors Don't Cry by Melba Patillo Beals

Click here to purchase this book at The Book Depository

You've gotta learn to defend yourself. Never let your enemy know what you are feeling.
-- The soldier assigned to protect Melba
Please, God, let me learn how to stop being a warrior. Sometimes I just need to be a girl.
-- Melba's diary, on her sixteenth birthday
In 1957 Melba Pattillo turned sixteen. That was also the year she became a warrior on the front lines of a civil rights firestorm. Following the landmark 1954 Supreme Court ruling, Brown v. Board Education, she was one of nine teenagers chosen to integrate Little Rock's Central High School. This is her remarkable story.
You will listen to the cruel taunts of her schoolmates and their parents. You will run with her from the threat of a lynch mob's rope. You will share her terror as she dodges lighted sticks of dynamite, and her pain as she washes away the acid sprayed into her eyes. But most of all you will share Melba's dignity and courage as she refuses to back down.

When I teach the second part of the US History survey course at my local community college, I often use this book. It is moving and memorable--a searing view of what life was like as one of the "Little Rock Nine." People who have never lived with segregation (and the process of desegregation) don't really understand what life was like for those children who paved the way. What I really like about this book is that you get a ground-floor view of the events, told by someone who actually lived through them. You almost feel like you are standing next to Melba, experiencing what she is experiencing. I highly recommend this book--it is one of those books everyone should read to understand the reality of the civil rights movement and school desegregation.

Book Details:
Melba Patillo Beals. Warriors Don't Cry. Simon Pulse, 2007 (reprint). 240 pp. $6.99 (paperback), ISBN 978-1416948827. 


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