Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry: a young adult novel by Mildred D. Taylor. Have you read it? If so, take a moment and think about what, (if anything) it meant to you. If you haven’t then take a moment to do a quick search to get your hands on a copy, because, in my opinion, this is a book that simply must be read!
It’s no secret that I love literature. I have enjoyed reading for as long as I can remember and I have it on good authority from my parents that I loved being read to before I could read myself. Over the years there have been many books that I have been exposed to that have prompted many different reactions within me. As I have got older these have tended to be either literature for adults or a story from my childhood that holds sentimental value. However, towards the end of my university journey Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry appeared on my reading list. I read the synopsis as I was preparing for the module to begin, and whilst it sounded interesting I didn’t really think too much about it.
But then the time came to read it.
I read the novel in one sitting, I just couldn’t put it down. It was unlike anything I had read previously and I was completely absorbed in the language, the plot, everything!
So what is this novel about? Let me include a brief synopsis here for anybody that hasn’t read it before.
TITLE: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
AUTHOR: Mildred D. Taylor
Nine year old Cassie Logan narrates this depression era tale of racism. She lives with her family in southern Mississippi where the colour of your skin dictates the life you lead. From dodging the school bus of white children to avoid a soaking, all the way through to lynching, we experience with our child narrator the harsh reality of life for black people during this time. Whilst this novel is often heartbreaking, the Logan family show the power of inner strength as they fight for what is right in a time where speaking out can, and often is fatal.
This novel is in a word; powerful.
I found myself exposed to subject matter that I knew about but hadn’t really felt. This book changed that. My heart found it nearly impossible to cope with the events that unfolded page after page. Whilst there were moments that were terrifying and violent, it was the day to day prejudice that really brought a lump to my throat. It was beyond upsetting to read about children forced to scramble up a bank on their way to school to avoid being covered head to toe in mud, all in the name of ‘entertainment’. I was tearful reading how black children could only receive a textbook for their schooling once it was deemed unacceptably tatty for the white children. Worst still, they were expected to be grateful!
The child narrator really makes the story for me personally. As Cassie grew and learned the way of life I learned it with her. As she sat confused as to why society was this way and lamented the discrimination, I too questioned this angrily. As she, and her family, did what they could to fight back and improve their lives I sat in awe of them and questioned whether I would have been this brave. Sadly I don’t think I would have been. Fear is powerful and the repercussions for standing up are all too apparent.
In my opinion Taylor handles the subject matter sensitively yet realistically. She doesn’t sugar coat or downplay anything and this is important because if there is one thing that can be taken from this it is a lesson. That lesson is that these horrific moments in history can never be repeated. What a shame that all these years later behaviour of this kind still goes on.
Perhaps that is why this book had such an effect upon me. There is no happy ending for the characters and so far there is no happy ending full stop. Whilst society has come a long way, there is still so much prejudice and it’s simply unacceptable.
I am proud to say that I have been brought up to treat everybody equally, and as I read this book and experienced the opposite to this I am further grateful that my parents instilled the correct values in me as a child that I have brought into my adult years.
I have read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry many times now and I’m sure I will continue to read it again and again. It’s a novel that is accessible to both older children and adults and provides an important insight into history. I believe it is a vital piece of literature that should be used as a lesson in equality and kindness. Unfortunately there is still not enough of either of those two things even all these years later. That is why this book remains so important. This novel makes one question prejudice of all kinds, not just the racism inflicted upon black people during this time. This only adds to its power.
If you haven’t read it, I really think that you should. Perhaps you have read this post and thought okay it sounds alright and that’s it. That’s fine, after all that is how I felt when I first read the synopsis. I approached it with the attitude of having to read it in order to complete an assignment. After reading it however, I had thoughts and emotions stirred within me that I would never have imagined when I opened it to the first page. I really think you might as well.
I can’t praise this novel enough. Simply put, as I said in the beginning; Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry must be read.
What are your thoughts on this post? Have you read the novel? If so, what is your opinion on it? If not, do you think you will?
I would love to hear so please leave me a comment!
Thanks for reading, I hope that you enjoyed!
Until the next time…Jess x