Friday, March 1, 2013
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (1977)
Wow! This is a powerful story of despair and hate, hope and resilience, of the desire for acceptance and equality and love and friendship. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry takes place in 1933 Mississippi. It is the story of the Logan family and their struggles against the hate and racism that pervaded the South at this time. The Logans are the only black family who own land in their small town, more of a corner store than a town, and they are determined to keep the land despite the odds.
The narrator, 9-year-old Cassie Logan, seems to see and hear everything and doesn't always understand what is happening. She doesn't understand why the white children get to ride a bus while the black children have to walk to school. Why the books they are given in school are only given to them when the white teachers think they are no longer fit for their students. Why she is forced off the sidewalk and into the road by a rude, uncouth, ignorant white girl and the girl's father. The list goes on, but Cassie grows up fast in the year the book covers and begins to understand the hate and unfairness of life.
Cassie also learns of hope and love as her family pulls together, along with other members of the black community, to pitch in to help each other and try to hold on to the tenuous existence that life in the deep South meant for people of color at that time.
Very well written. Very serious themes. The "N-word" is used frequently, which fits with the setting of the book.
Some favorite quotes:
Mama comforting Cassie after the sidewalk incident. "White people may demand our respect, but what we give them is not respect but fear...Baby, we have no choice of what color we're born or who our parents are or whether we're rich or poor. What we do have is some choice over what we make of our lives once we're here. And I pray to God you'll make the best of yours." (p. 129)
Uncle Hammer (their father's brother) to Stacey (Cassie's older brother). "It's tough out there, boy, and as long as there are people, there's gonna be somebody trying to take what you got and trying to drag you down. It's up to you whether you let them or not." (p. 143)
Cassie's father to her. "There are things you can't back down on, things you gotta take a stand on. But it's up to you to decide what them things are. You have to demand respect in this world, ain't nobody just gonna hand it to you. How you carry yourself, what you stand for--that's how you gain respect. But, little, one, ain't nobody's respect worth more than your own." (p. 176)
Taylor, Mildred D. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Dial Books, 1976.