Friday, 2 September 2016

Claudette Colvin by Phillip M Hoose

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip M. Hoose
First published in 2009. Brilliance Audio audiobook edition, narrated by Channie Waites, published in December 2009.

How I got this book:
Downloaded the audiobook from AudioSYNC

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'On March 2, 1955, a slim, bespectacled teenager refused to give up her seat to a white woman on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Shouting "It's my constitutional right!" as police dragged her off to jail, Claudette Colvin decided she'd had enough of the Jim Crow segregation laws that had angered and puzzled her since she was a young child. But instead of being celebrated, as Rosa Parks would be when she took the same stand nine months later, Claudette found herself shunned by many of her classmates and dismissed as an unfit role model by the black leaders of Montgomery. Undaunted, she put her life in danger a year later when she dared to challenge segregation yet again - as one of four plaintiffs in the landmark busing case Browder v. Gayle. Based on extensive interviews with Claudette Colvin and many others, Phillip Hoose presents the first in-depth account of a major, yet little-known, civil rights figure whose story provides a fresh perspective on the Montgomery bus protest of 1955 - 56. Historic figures like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks play important roles, but center stage belongs to the brave, bookish girl whose two acts of courage were to affect the course of American history.'

One from the 2015 AudioSYNC season, I thought Claudette Colvin by Phillip Hoose was the first of last year's selection to feel as though it was particularly aimed at a teenage audience. That said, the book is a fascinating listen and taught me much about the realities of segregated life in 1950s America. For example, I didn’t previously know the actual origins of the phrase ‘Jim Crow’. I particularly liked the way the side-bar sections were read. These little snapshots of historical information about prominent people and events complemented the main text allowing greater understanding of issues such as the practical logistics of staging the Bus Boycott.

The multi-narrator storytelling is a great device that really brings Claudette’s words to life. Her resolve to help bring about change, together with her disappointment at the lack of support from adult activists in Montgomery made for a poignant tale. The brief words of the author at the end explaining how this book came about were an interesting touch. For me however, the strongest feeling I was left with after hearing Claudette’s story together with my other (then) recent listen, October Mourning, is one of disappointment in America itself. The nation is a true melting pot of practically every people, yet only relatively few can really be themselves and thrive.

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Books by Phillip M Hoose / Biography and memoir / Books from America

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