Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Black History Month-- The Mighty Miss Malone

It’s Black History Month, so I’m going to try to post a book about a person of color every day. There are arguments back and forth about whether there should be a month that focuses on the achievement of black Americans, and even what term to use. I have decided to use black instead of African Americans, because not all black people come from Africa. It does feel a little funny using the term “black”, although using “people of color” doesn’t seem right either. As for the argument that there shouldn’t be a special month because all cultures in America should be given equal treatment all the time-- well, while this is true, we still have to deal with the problem of only 2% of the fiction books being published having people of color on the cover. My focus is to have all of my students be able to find people similar to themselves portrayed in books.

Curtis, Christopher Paul. The Mighty Miss Malone.
E ARC provided by Edelweiss’ Above The Treeline
What better way to start the month than to highlight a new book that features the bright and curious Deza Malone, who has this to say about the books that are given to her: “Some of the time I’d get snapped out of the book when I read things that I couldn’t pretend were about me, even if I had the imagination of Mr. William Shakespeare. Words like “her pale, luminescent skin: or her flowing mane of golden hair” or her lovely, cornflower-blue eyes” or “the maiden fair”. I would stop and think, No, Deza, none of these books are about you.” Deza is the best student in her school despite the fact that her family has fallen on hard times during the Great Depression. She keeps herself occupied by hanging out with her brother Jimmie, going to baseball games, and following the rise of Joe Louis. When her father is gravely injured in a fishing accident that kills several of their neighbors, times get even tougher for the family. After the father moves from Gary, Indiana to Flint, Michigan for a job, the family tries to follow him. Jimmie arranges a ride with a criminal type who runs a betting scheme, but the family decides it’s better to ride the rails and end up in a Hooverville type camp. When they are booted from that by the authorities, they manage to get settled in a small apartment. The mother works, Deza attends a school with white students where the teachers are prejudiced and black students are lucky to get C’s, and Jimmie starts to work in a speakeasy. After a while, they get letters and money from the father, but suspect that he is not the one writing them.
Strengths: Vivid picture of what it was like to live through the Great Depression, as well as what it was like to live with every day prejudice. Deza is a strong character, and her family tries their best to survive and prosper during a difficult time.
Weaknesses: Deza is a little full of herself at times, and the first few chapters of the book are anecdotal, which made me wonder if a plot would ever emerge. Once it did, the book picked up tremendously.
I was feeling uncharacteristically organized when I came across Doret's announcement at The Happy Nappy Bookseller for the Black History Blog Hop. There are all sorts of events going on, including Bookaholic's Africa Reading Challenge. The Brown Bookshelf is also showcasing African American authors. As I find more events and postings, I'll try to share them.

Now I'm going to go sob quietly into some nonfiction shelving. Or glue some books back together. I'm behind no matter how early I start!


  1. I love the cover of this one. It just screams read me. (Which is why it's sitting on my pile. I just need to get to to it. Glad to hear it's good.)

    Also: I love your idea of featuring a book with a person of color in/on it this month. Great idea!

  2. I think Curtis books tend to start slow. He likes to spend some time with his characters before starting the plot. That's how I remember Elijah and Watsons, anyway.

  3. I am so elated to get this book for my students, and truth be told, for myself as well! We just finished up Bud, Not Buddy and now we have moved on to Elijah of Buxton! So far my students have been enthralled with Curtis's characters.