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Book Review: Glory Be

After I read Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, I wrote a strange sort of not-review of the book to try and help myself understand what was going on with people’s reactions to it. It’s a time and place in history that, as a white Yankee, I have little experience with–almost every history class I took in high school got us from Columbus landing to just after the Civil War then petered out fantastically as the weather started to turn hot. I think Junior year might have actually made it to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, but…yeah…not a lot of focus.

Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood was recommended to me by a friend along with a stack of others, so I wasn’t entirely sure what it was about. Once I started reading it, however, I realized that it’s a spiritual little sister of The Help–it deals with the same type of prejudice in the same kind of small town in Mississippi–but it’s for kids.

The protagonist is eleven-almost-twelve-year-old Gloriana June Hemphill (known as Glory) who is eagerly awaiting her birthday party that she always has at the Hanging Moss, MS community pool. Unfortunately for her, it’s the summer of 1964 and racist members of the community have decided that it’s better that they close the pool than have the African-American side of the town be able to use it. She befriends a Yankee girl from Ohio named Laura Lampert who has moved to town with her mother who is starting a Freedom Clinic so that the African-American people of the town can have medical care they can afford.

Ultimately, Glory writes a scathing letter to the town newspaper about why she thinks the pool shouldn’t be closed. Everyone keeps telling her that it’s closed because there are cracks in the pool that need to be fixed.

Unfortunately for Scattergood, I don’t believe that Glory could have written the letter she wrote. I mean that from a completely literary standpoint, though. Throughout the book, Glory seemed to me to not really understand what was going on–why her BFF Frankie’s dad wanted the pool closed; why Laura’s mom was helping to open the clinic; why her family’s maid, Emma, would tense up when Glory would press her about why the pool was closed; why the librarian was taking a stand by not taking seats out of the library.

She seemed so focused on insisting that there were no cracks in the pool or holes in the fence that when I actually got to the letter and it specifically said, “The people in this town dumb enough to agree to shut down a pool to keep Negroes out–and lying about it by saying it’s the pool that needs fixing–they are the fools who can’t see,” I was a little flabbergasted. It seemed completely out of character. For half the book, she seemed like a naive eleven-year-old who couldn’t understand why people wouldn’t try to just get along, then wham, blindsided by a Letter to the Editor.

At least after that, she seemed a little less naive.

It was an interesting read and I can imagine that it would be a good introduction to children about what the Civil Rights movement was all about. NPR just had it as their Backseat Book Club pick in July, so if you want to hear a better summary than then one I gave as well as some input from the author, I highly suggest giving this a listen.

My only other nagging question I have about the book is…well…if her birthday is July 4th, why is her middle name June?

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