Review of Leaving Lymon

Leaving Lymon
by Lesa Cline-Ransome
Intermediate, Middle School    Holiday    199 pp.
1/20    978-0-8234-4442-7    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-8234-4633-9    $10.99

Lymon Caldwell, a secondary character in Finding Langston (rev. 9/18), tells his story in this companion novel that explores the question, “Are bullies born or are they made?” Lymon lives with his grandparents in 1940s Mississippi; his mother abandoned him as a baby, and his father is in prison. Lymon’s grandfather nurtures him and sparks in him a love of music, but after Grandpops passes away, Lymon and Ma (his grandmother) move to Milwaukee. Ma’s diabetes worsens, and Lymon is happy to stay home from school to care for her since he struggles academically. When Ma is hospitalized, Lymon reunites with his mother in Chicago, but he is abused by her new husband. Lymon’s life is a study of a boy who perpetually falls through the cracks, and who internalizes the painful lesson that the only person he can count on is himself. Cline-Ransome demonstrates a mastery of character development that deftly captures historical and sociological nuances of an African American family. Bullies are clearly made by abuse, neglect, and institutions that fail them. An author’s note provides historical context about Mississippi’s Parchman Farm prison and the Great Migration.

From the March/April 2020 Horn Book Magazine.

Julie Hakim Azzam
Julie Hakim Azzam

Julie Hakim Azzam is the assistant director of the MFA program in the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University and has a PhD in literary and cultural studies, with a specialization in contemporary postcolonial literature from Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East.

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