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Review of This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality

This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality
by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy
Intermediate, Middle School    Bloomsbury    311 pp.    g
1/19    978-1-68119-852-1    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-68119-853-8    $12.59 

In 1956 in the small town of Clinton, Tennessee, twelve African American students integrated the all-white high school. Jo Ann Allen Boyce, one of the “Clinton 12,” narrates this first-person account. She lives with her family up on the Hill, a part of the city that was settled by formerly enslaved people after the Civil War. Jo Ann and her family are active in their church, and her knowledge of religious songs and biblical history is threaded throughout the memoir. The book consists of free-verse passages that often include rhyme and employ various forms such as pantoum and villanelle. (One haiku titled “And Then There Are the Thumbtacks” reads: “Scattered on our chairs / A prank straight out of cartoons / They think we don’t look?”) Boyce’s character evolves throughout the book. Though not naive about racism early on, she later fully experiences the weight of white supremacy. Even her white neighbors on the Hill turn on her family members once they are perceived as stepping “out of their place.” Newspaper headlines and clips, excerpts from the Constitution, and examples of artifacts such as signs held by protesters (“We Won’t Go to School with Negroes”) are interspersed throughout. This fine addition to texts about the integration of public schools during the civil rights era in the United States concludes with an epilogue, biographical information about the Clinton 12, a scrapbook of photographs, source notes, and a timeline.

From the January/February 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Jonda C. McNair About Jonda C. McNair

Jonda C. McNair is a professor of literacy education at Clemson University in South Carolina. She is a past chair of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards Committee and a member of the 2019 Randolph Caldecott Award Selection Committee.

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