Sharenow, Robert. 2007. My Mother the Cheerleader.
There are many words to describe this historical novel: brutal, violent, memorable, harsh, emotional, bold. But even all together, they fail to depict the heart and soul of hatred in the American South for desegregation in New Orleans the year Ruby Bridges begins her first grade school year. Our narrator, Louise Collins, is the daughter of one of the cheerleaders. What is a Cheerleader in this context? Grown women--mothers and wives--who daily stand on the sidewalk, the sidelines, and chant nasty, hateful words to the brave little black girl on her way to school. Louise has never thought about segregation and integration. She only knows that her mother has pulled her out of school. That instead of being overworked with school, she's burdened with caring for her mother's boarders in their boarding house. She's in charge of emptying bed pans and cleaning up after an older man--a legless diabetic--who is grumpy, grumpy, mean. Life might have gone on dismally and stagnant except for the arrival of an outsider--a man, Morgan Miller--who unknowingly changes everything for this family. Who is Morgan? Why is he in town? Morgan was born in New Orleans, he has family there, but he lives in New York. He is here to witness the harshness and brutality of racism. It is a dangerous place to be. The world is a cruel, cruel, place and this atmosphere is deadly serious about staying segregated. There is language--strong language, racist language; there is violence--even sexual violence. So this novel isn't for everyone. But while the pictures it paints are never pretty, it captures the brutal reality of America's past. The good. The bad. The ugly. It is all here.
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