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A New Mentoring Text That Strengthens the Narrative of Injustices for our Youth

June 6, 2018

Ghost BoysIn my opinion, this book will have a lasting impact on our contemporary canon due to the readability and historical update of the narrative on the subject matter of Emmett Till’s murder conviction, which was changed due to new information first by his cousin, Simeon Wright, through the publishing of Simeon’s Story: An Eyewitness Account of the Kidnapping of Emmett Till , as documented in a news coverage. The second impact on Emmett’s death was the surfacing of Carolyn Bryant, who after 60 years breaks her silence by standing up against the intense fear she felt due to threats that forced her to lie under oath.

With all of this, author Jewell Parker Rhodes was led to document the change in the story for children, using the voice of Emmett, himself as one of the characters in what became Ghost Boys . The strength, wisdom, and leadership that Emmett’s character emotes is reflective of the change the emergent information caused in the narrative and in the lessons Emmett learned in his place as leader of other youth who ended up in his afterlife world, due to similar conditions that resulted in their deaths.

Image result for roll of thunder hear my cryI truly believe this is one of the new historical fictions we will turn to in curriculum as mentoring text, just as we have done so with Julius Lester’s Day of Tears , Mildred Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and Laurie Halse Anderson’s Fever of 1793 and Chains.

In a conversation on Facebook, I responded to a request for suggestions on what to do when your administrator says no to the reading of Ghost Boys at the end of the school year. Having grown up in the South knowing adults who feared for their children’s lives due to the conditions of segregation they lived under and having grown up in a small town that refused to be silent against such heinous acts that forced other places to be silent, I knew silence was not the answer. Voice and trust were needed to stop all wrongs AND seeing today, how the silence is still in tack, my heart broke. My heart broke over knowing the anguish that school librarian felt over being rejected, rejected with no explanation.

We’ve all been there, and I couldn’t help but feel for this librarian and admire the brevity of title-choice, which is what caused my heart to respond in such a manner.

Image result for emmett tills correction correctionsIt ached as I wrote my response to the post over the loss of the experience the youth in this librarian’s lit group will not get to be guided through navigating the complicated issues that author Jewell Parker Rhodes spent time to research and present in a manner that youth could understand. It ached over the lost opportunity they will miss in experiencing this important book in a group and with adults who would have made themselves open to provide facilitation support for better understandings, for Ghost Boys is a hard hard emotional book!

There are so many layers: Emmett Tills’ corrected story:  the harsh unbridled details of murder due to hatred; bystanders in both cases in the book (protagonist and the Emmett flashback); current-day police aggression on young males of color; utilization of body-cams video; testimonial statements from authority sworn to protect; silence from unscrupulous cover-ups; AND if you think the racism discussion is the hard part, the discussion of ancestral belief which is an undercurrent of spirituality in the book will challenge views of religion and origin stories. 

 

I think, before even reading this book, a lot of up-front prep is needed. The students, as well as everyone else, is aware of police aggression but the other subtleties IMHO cannot be overlooked. Due to the fragilities of so many folks with buy-in to the library, I would approach it from a healing perspective, for the book’s protagonist truly wanted the officer’s daughter to heal the rife his death caused. The father showed remorse but never said so. That is the part I would use as a promotional. I would even critique the reviews and explain to my administrator how there is something way more powerful than what the media frenzy shows daily from the murder of young black males…for the silence of the Emmett Till witness is the example of the same silence we are experiencing today with our social and political needs. Silence is a sign of fear and fear does not solve the problems. It takes on hostages and smothers your actions. So, the impact of this book is in the historic silence that our youth today should be armed against doing. The silence in both stories is reflective of society’s silence, which is why so many things keep repeating without correction…the silence and the fear of the loudness…In Ghost Boys, the noise, the silence, the fear, the anger, the history of it in the past, and the action of it in today’s world is all layed on the table for deconstruction…a blueprint for fixing the leaky pipe.

One Comment leave one →
  1. patricelambusta permalink
    June 7, 2018 9:34 am

    Put it on my order. 🙂

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