Sunday, 2 October 2016

While The World Watched by Carolyn Maull Mckinstry

While The World Watched by Carolyn Maull Mckinstry with Denise George
First published in America by Tyndale in February 2011. Audio edition narrated by Felicia Bullock published by Oasis Audio in October 2013.

This one of the books I planned to read as part of the 2016 TBR Pile Reading Challenge.

How I got this book:
Downloaded the audiobook from AudioSYNC during their 2015 season.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"On September 15, 1963, a Klan-planted bomb went off in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Fourteen-year-old Carolyn Maull was just a few feet away when the bomb exploded, killing four of her friends in the girl's restroom she had just exited. It was one of the seminal moments in the Civil Rights movement, a sad day in American history . . . and the turning point in a young girl's life."While the World Watched" is a poignant and gripping eyewitness account of life in the Jim Crow South: from the bombings, riots, and assassinations to the historic marches and triumphs that characterized the Civil Rights movement.A uniquely moving exploration of how racial relations have evolved over the past 5 decades, "While the World Watched" is an incredible testament to how far we've come and how far we have yet to go..

While The World Watched is an intensely personal memoir in which Mckinstry shows us her life as a young African-American girl growing up in Birmingham, Alabama. I already had some knowledge of the degradation caused by segregation, but hearing first-hand accounts of her dying grandmother being relegated, practically untreated, to a hospital basement and of children trying to gain a school education from cast-off textbooks scrawled with racist slogans did drive the situation home to me. With almost no other leisure opportunities open to black people, their churches were the focal point of life and social interaction which is one reason the Klan church bombings were so shocking. Black people already had practically nothing else! I am confused why Klan members bombed churches too because I thought that they also considered themselves Christians and no doubt would have been horrified at the thought of their own churches being similarly attacked.

The vicious injustice and hypocrisy of many Southern whites in the 1950s and 1960s is shown in their own words in While The World Watched by the fascinating inclusion of a number of speech transcripts so we get to hear the words not only of civil rights leaders such as Dr Martin Luther King Jr, but also of civic officials such as Bull Connor and Governor George Wallace. The vitriol the latter two publicly spout is incredible to hear and if this was a fiction book I would think the author had seriously overegged her characters!

Mckinstry fervently maintains her Christian faith across the decades despite everything the world has thrown her way. At times its profession does make listening to the book feel like being preached to which, for me, is an unusual experience although it fitted well with the memoir. I was disappointed by the repetitious padding though which I felt diluted what should have been a powerful recounting of an extraordinary life. My audiobook edition lasted nine hours and a good third of that was repeating information we had already been told or speeches we had already heard.

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Books by Carolyn Maull Mckinstry / Biography and memoir / Books from America

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