Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Starlight by Stella by Sharon M. Draper

I am rarely moved to tears by a book but this one managed to do so. Starlight by Stella's cover image of two young African American children hesitantly trodding in front of a burning cross is enough to make one shudder. The book's name is also the title of one of Miles Davis' compositions.

Young Stella, inspired in part by the author's own grandmother, is a smart and precocious child who as the events of the novel unfold becomes braver too. Stella keeps a journal and records some keen observations about the world in which she lives.

The Ku Klux Klan is active in their small town and Stella and her friends are fairly certain of who they are.These men are cowardly, mean-spirited and downright ignorant and we learn that the leader of this nefarious group is no kinder to his own kin. Draper is careful to portray some sympathetic white characters in the novel and some of these townsfolk are instrumental in helping the African American community when a tragedy befalls the community.

The events of the novel occur during the Great Depression and President Hoover's unpopularity is mentioned as is the near certainty of victory for Franklin D Roosevelt. Still the African American men of the town, although they are fully aware that it will be no easy task are intent on casting their vote.This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act and I thought about this as I read part this part of the novel.

The book is punctuated with Negro Spirituals and African American hymns and the role of the church is evident in the town, not only as a place of worship but as a rallying point for the community. The pastor is is no shrinking violet and much in the vein of later giants of the Civil Rights movement it is he who inspires his flock to do something to stand up for their rights. I wholeheartedly recommend this book for students in grades 4 and above.

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