Midnight Without a Moon
by Linda Williams Jackson
Middle School Houghton 310 pp.
1/17 978-0-544-78510-6 $16.99 g
In the summer of 1955, thirteen-year-old Rose Lee Carter chafes at the daily drudgery of life in rural Mississippi. Rose, who lives with her sharecropper grandparents, suffers from low self-esteem fostered by her despotic grandmother, who incessantly reminds her of her undesirable dark skin color (“blacker than midnight without a moon”). She longs to join her mother and favorite aunt, who leave the South in search of better lives, settling in Chicago and St. Louis, respectively. Rose’s routine is precipitously disrupted when Emmett Till, a teenage boy from “up north,” is killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman. The murder deeply affects her as she attempts to negotiate the dilemma of a community divided between those who are afraid to challenge the status quo and those who demand change. Through her friendship with the local preacher’s son, Rose gains insight into the intricacies of the segregated South and begins to realize her own sense of place. This nuanced coming-of-age story by a debut author is deftly delivered, with engaging characters set against a richly contextualized backdrop of life for African Americans during the Jim Crow era. It’s also an authentic work of historical fiction (supported by Southern vernacular in both dialogue and vocabulary that accurately reflects the era) about a pivotal incident in the civil rights movement.
From the January/February 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.