I read a prompt this week about what book character meant a lot to me, and influenced me growing up.
I immediately thought of the book Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor.
The book is set during the Great Depression, and the main character is 9 year old Cassie.
The book shows race relations through her eyes, and has a sequel (which I also read) called Let the Circle be Unbroken.
Through her eyes, I experienced the importance of land ownership, which didn’t really stick with me, and how important race can be when it comes to relationships with others.
I believe I was in 6th-7th grade when I read the 2 books.
In Literature class, we talked about books: the content, the intent, and our perceptions. Our teacher, Mrs. Jayne Kesler, had a list of reading materials she recommended for those of us with a love for reading. When we went to the library to check out books, she encouraged us to read from that last.
As a diligent reader from a young age, I read just about any book I could get my hands on. I frequently struggled to find a book I would find interesting, because I read so many books. This is before Kindle e-books were an option.
Back then, in the early 80’s, we had to find the book in the library; so we had to know the author, and the book had to be in the library; as in not checked out by someone else.
I can remember being excited about the book, and identifying with Cassie and her point of view as a young black woman in the late 30’s and early 40’s. She experienced racism, and through her, I felt as if I did too. I connected with her, and was excited to read the second book to learn more about her and to see the world through her eyes.
When I went to graduate school, I took a class about Multi-culturalism. I had moved from Bloomington, Indiana, where I went to undergrad, to Cincinnati, Ohio, where I completed graduate school. In the early 90’s, there was a lot of racial unrest in Cincinnati.
This was different than I had experienced in my small hometown of Tipton, Indiana, and more accentuated than race relations were in Bloomington.
By reading several books about race, including the two mentioned above, as well as every book based in the Civil War I could get my hands on, I was able to have a greater understanding that there are different experiences that people have who are different races.
I will always be the small town girl from Indiana, but the book Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry definitely opened up my world and I am glad for it.
Hope you find a character in a book that is meaningful to you.