|Liz and Jerry Spinelli|
|Liz and Suzanne Bloom|
|Liz and Jerry Spinelli|
|Liz and Suzanne Bloom|
"Have you ever heard of a light-skinned Negro pretending to be white?"For the first time, Marlee begins to see the hatred and prejudice in her city. Marlee's sister, who has been out of school for a month because her school can't open, gets sent away to live with their Grandmother. At a time when she's just beginning to speak what's on her mind, Marlee feels abandoned by her sister and Liz. When her father is angered that the town votes against integration he says, "We are not just a town of racists, but those of us who believe in integration..." He shook his head. "We can't seem to find our voice." (p. 75)
Betty Jean stopped what she was doing, her hands full of chicken guts, and gave me a funny look. "Why are you asking that, Marlee?"
The kids at schools said...this girl I know... I was just wondering...I couldn't get any words to come. Finally, I just stood there, helpless, praying Betty Jean would understand.
I guess she did, because she finally pushed the basting pan aside and went to the sink to wash her hands. She cut two pieces of blueberry pie, then sat down at the table. I sat down too, and she pushed the pie across the table to me.
"It's called passing," she said. "Some Negroes who are really light-skinned and have straight hair try it."
"Why?" I asked.
"Better schooling. More opportunities." She shrugged. "Maybe they're just tired of being seen as second best."
I didn't say anything. It suddenly seemed like there was more gray around her temples than had been there just a moment before.
"It's a hard life," Betty Jean went on. "You have to give up seeing family and friends. Stop going the places you used to go. And you have to lie--every day--to everyone you meet."
Like Liz had done to me.
"Lying like that, well, it's exhausting. I hope you never have a secret like that Marlee. A secret so big, your whole life depends on it." (p. 68)
I knew the Gem was over on West Ninth Street. If I could go to a Negro church, why not a Negro movie theater? I turned the idea over and over in my mind, like a lemon drop on my tongue. I imagined being the only white girl in a room full of Negroes and shivered. It was a little scary. But Liz had been the only colored girl in a whole school full of white kids. Negroes might not be welcome at the white theater, but I didn't think there was a rule against whites going to the Negro theater. If she could do it, so could I. (p. 106)As Marlee grows in empathy for Liz, she also realizes she's changing. "For so long I'd been the quiet girl. If I wasn't her anymore, who was I?" (p. 113) Marlee also begins to see that what has worked for her (doing math problems in her head when she's upset) isn't going to work for Liz who loves words more than numbers. A part of Marlee's growth is helping Liz figure out a way to control her temper by writing things down. Seeing how her friend is different than her, takes Marlee beyond their racial differences.
"I'm happy we won," I said. "So how come I don't feel better?"
He looked thoughtful and said nothing for a long moment, then he pulled out a pencil and started to write on the blank piece of paper I had before me. "I think what's happened, Marlee, is that you've realized the world isn't an addition problem."
He wrote 3 + 4 = 7 down on the paper. "We tell kids that sometimes. We pretend the world is straightforward, simple, easy. You do this, you get that. You're a good person and try your best, and nothing bad will happen."
"But the truth is, the world is much more like an algebraic equation. With variables and changes, complicated and messy. Sometimes there's more than one answer, and sometimes there is none. Sometimes we don't even know how to solve the problem." (p.270)I wish I could say that the book ends with a beautiful tying-up-all-the-pieces between Marlee and Liz. But because of circumstances beyond their control, it doesn't. Like Mr. Harding's lesson, books don't always come out the way we want them to. But it is a realistic, hopeful ending that shows how much Marlee has grown. And there is hope for the future--which is vital when writing a book for young people.
Linda Davies next to Maen Lila, the Neolithic standing stone that guides Merry.
Grandaddy's gray hair was flat on one side from sleeping on it. I nudged his leg with my knee. "I brung your supper."
"Thunderation! You fool. You woke me up." His eyelids slid shut again, and his mouth fell open like a trapdoor without a hook. A dried stream of tobacco snuff ran from the corner of his mouth and down onto his neck. p. 15Alex M. commented that he was interested in how Junior's two aunts were portrayed:
"So there I was, with a piece of fudge in each hand, watching her and Aunt Lucille tiptoeing around each other. I tried to imagine them with Pop, playing together when they were all young'uns. But those two women eyeing each other didn't seem like the kind of people who could have been small and childlike once upon a time. For one thing, they are both tall. And big-boned. Right now, Aunt Lucille's face was more serious than Miss Hinkle's in the middle of a handwriting session. Lillian was smiling, but I could tell she was all pretend--just tying to buy something with that fudge of hers. p. 133-4After a discussion about the difference between internal and external goals, the class decided that Junior's external goal was to help his mother and his internal goal was to gain respect.
"After your granny died, Homer would sit on the neighbors' porches day in an day out, sniffing their cooking and inviting himself for dinner." p. 42We talked about how settings need to be sensory and one of my students picked this section. It's a good example of using setting to show a character's conflicts:
I peeked through the small holly tree, and not far away was Ann Fay with Leroy. He had a finger over his lips, reminding her to be quiet. I could see they had their eyes on my squirrel!
The crunchy sound of their feet on the dry leaves took me way back, to when I was eight years old. And their white breath clouds in the cool air--it was like being there again, in the woods with Pop, learning to shoot squirrel for the first time. p. 59
"Sit down, Junior." She said it real low, but there was something in her voice that told me I better listen. Or else.
So I sat. But inside I was standing up. Inside I was marching to the back of the room and jerking that Dudley Catfish Walker up and showing him what a Democrat could do to a Republican. If he wanted a fight, I was a mind to let him have it.
Miss Hinkle tried to bring the discussion back to the economy and how, if we did got to war, we'd have to sacrifice on more luxuries here at home. That didn't help because Dudley and opinions on that too, and I spoke out and said his ideas were stupid so maybe he should just dry up, and Dudley said I was dumber than a box of rocks. p. 86
Dudley shook his head. "Just think about it," he said. "We won't be stealing because we're bringing it back. After all that woman has put us through, don't you think she owes us a little something?"
"There's nothing to think about," I said. And I meant it, too.
But after he left, I couldn't stop thinking about it. What a confounded stupid idea! I thought about it when I was doing odd jobs at the sawmill and when I was planting cotton for a farmer near the crossroads. p. 209-210When we talked about the concept of antagonists, we considered why Dudley acted the way he did. The students readily agreed that the abuse he suffered as a child laid the groundwork for his anger and bullying.
|Look closely for some items from AIM!|
|Libbie and Caitlin enjoyed the story of Panchito, the Mexican jumping bean.|