Friday, December 03, 2021

Defiant: Growing Up in the Jim Crow South

Hudson, Wade. Defiant: Growing Up in the Jim Crow South
October 12th 2021 by Crown Books for Young Readers
Public library copy

While there are not as many stories of Baby Boomers as I would like to see in memoirs, there are even fewer about people born during this era who are people of color. Hudson's experiences of being born in Alabama in 1946 and raised during a period of extreme difficulty for Black citizens is a much needed viewpoint, and one I've seen in Leon Walter Tillage's 1997 Leon's Story. Hudson's story is much more complete, and paints a complex and riveting picture of a boy who played baseball, tried hard in school, was involved in his church, and who had to bear constant aggressions because of his race. From substandard schools and fear of attack to not being allowed to try on clothes at department stores, daily life was impacted for Black citizens in ways that white histories have ignored and young Black students will find somewhat surprising. While there is still a ways to go in our society, things have changed for the better, but it's important to keep accounts of history so that it is not repeated. 

Hudson's close knit family and neighborhood seem like relics of the past in today's fragmented society, and it's good to see the role his grandmother played in his life, and to hear how many people in his town were looking out for him because they were related. His experiences in church will also be novel to many readers, who might not have seen how large a role the church played in the lives of many people in the 1940s to the 1970s. Hudson's determination to get an education, and his desire to be part of the civil rights movement is also informative. Teachers will love the emphasis on reading and writing. I've been looking for civil rights books for years, and until recently, most stories were told from the point of view of young white girls. This is far more interesting and illuminative.

Today's young readers are often unaware that the world was ever NOT the way it is right now. I appall them with stories of girls not being able to wear skirts to school, of a library with no computers, and of Gen X's freedom to raise ourselves. This is an important look at the midcentury US from an often ignored point of view. Add this to other memoirs that will help young readers understand ways of life that may be different from theirs, such as Ogle's Free Lunch (2019), Uhlberg's The Sounds of Silence: Growing Up Hearing with Deaf Parents (2019), Johnson's Reaching for the Moon: The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson (2019) and Robinson, Sharon. Child of the Dream (2019).

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