Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fire From the Rock

Fire From the Rock

Bibliographic Information:

Draper, S. (2006). Fire From the Rock. New York: Dutton Children's Books. ISBN: 9780525477204.


"Dad, listen. When they make a list of Negro kids who get to go to Central High, I want to be on it," he announced. Their father almost choked on his bacon. "Why would you want to do a fool thing like that?" he asked. He looked at Gary as if he had grown a second skull. "Because I deserve to go to a big, modern school, and have new books and desks and the best education in Arkansas," Gary retorted. "It was good enough for me when I was your age,' his father said, his voice tight. "We had strong Negro teachers who taught us pride in our heritage, our history, and our culture. No white school will ever do that for you." -page 20

"Does your mother like teaching the colored children at Stephens Elementary?" the bald-headed man asked. "Yes, sir. I'm sure she does. Very much." I wonder what Mam's job has to do with this. "We hear she pretty good at teaching, at least for a Negro." "Thank you." Sylvia tensed. "Do you think your mama is willing to risk that job? Some members of our community are opposed to integration". -page 128

Plot Summary:

Sylvia Patterson is a 15-year-old black girl growing up in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. She is about to enter high school and just wants to be a normal teen and fit in. The problem with that is that she is going to be one of the first black students to attend an all white high school.

Critical Analysis:

Fire From the Rock is a historical fiction novel that takes place in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. Sharon Draper does an excellent job of interweaving the fictional life of Sylvia Patterson with the historical truth of the events surrounding the "Little Rock Nine". This book is told from Sylvia's perspective and in a loose journal entry like form of narration.

Something I really liked about this book is the black perspective that is provided. In this book it is not only whites that are against integration, but also blacks. Sylvia and her family know what is "right", and they know integration is an injustice. But, that doesn't mean they necessarily want to put themselves, their community, or their children in direct harms way.

Sylvia, the main protagonist of this narrative is chosen as one of the first few to integrate the high school. A lot of the book is her deciding what she wants, and if that decision is right for her family and community as well. On the other side of Sylvia deciding if she wants to participate in integration is her brother Gary, who wants to be one of the first and has aligned himself with the NAACP and has been labeled a troublemaker throughout the white community that opposes black and white integration.

Besides for having a black and white perspective, Sylvia's has a friend that is Jewish and considered "unworthy" of mingling with white students. She has to deal with her own kind of racist intolerance.

The actions and perspectives in this book can be shocking and uncomfortable. But, it is the reality of the Civil Rights Movement, the progress made, and the progress to come. Sharon Draper does not shy away from including disturbing truths and stories of violence that happened fictionally, and non fictionally during the Civil Rights movement. For example, Draper included vivid detail of the Emmett Till tragedy, and Sylvia's brother Gary is a victim of a race crime and dropped off badly beaten on their doorstep as a warning.

Something else that proves insightful and helpful is Sharon Draper's inclusion of a list of websites on the subject found in the back of the book for further research.

I think this is an educational and eye opening book for anyone, though I would especially recommend it for older juvenile readers and young adults.

An honor student, Sylvia Patterson is thrilled when she is chosen as one of the first black students to integrate all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957. But the racism in her town is terrifying, and she is not sure she can go through with it. Unlike her older brother, she does not want to be a hero and change the world. Besides, many in her black community are against integration; why not stay with her friends, concentrate on academics, and get to college? With stirring complexity, Draper personalizes the civil rights struggle beyond slogans and politics. There is sometimes too much historical background purposively woven into Sylvia's narrative, including her diary entries. But the surprising turnaround in the plot, as well as the shocking facts, will grab readers and raise the elemental issue: what would I have done? A final note fills in history and provides a list of Web sites.

Sharon Draper marvelously weaves fiction and history with so many twists and catches the only thing you can easily predict is that something will happen you didn't expect. This is a perfect book to help teenagers and tweens to understand not only the social climate that surrounded school integration, but the importance of the struggle for integration. This book should be on the required reading lists of every middle school and junior high across the country.
-Hugh Fletcher, A Reader's Review

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