Houghton Mifflin: Boston, 2010.
Sam and her mom come to Jackson, Mississippi in 1962 to be near her father's family. Her mom, a pants-wearing freak, teaches art history at the university, and with the encouragement of a colleague, starts to teach at the local colored school as well. The colleague, Perry, embroils them in other activism, such as lunch counter sit-ins and voter registration, which endangers their life and makes for lively family discussion.
This may be a rehashed subject, but it is well done and my favorite part is the twist to the story. Sam is given a camera by Perry to record Jackson for a school project. Perry challenges her to really capture Jackson the way it is, not the picture postcard view which the teacher is expecting. Sam finds that the camera helps her drop her worries of not fitting in. She exhibits courage she didn't know she had in order to record scenes that no one else is likely to display. She also sees things in a way she never has before, more personally removed. Although she's independent enough to deal with not fitting in, even under pressure from family and neighbors, she learns that when it comes to their black maid, she cannot be Willa Mae's friend as usual in public. It is not safe or comfortable for Willa Mae.
The characters and relationships are strengths of the story. There is a spectrum of viewpoints, and several of the characters are strong and real. Sam, her mother, Willa Mae, and especially Sam's grandmother, the
matriarch of the family, who plays such a short part. I love the interaction.
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