Freedom Summer in 1964 Mississippi brings both peaceful protest and violence into the lives of two young people.
Twelve-year-old Sunny, who’s white, cannot accept her new stepmother and stepsiblings. Raymond, “a colored boy,” is impatient for integration to open the town’s pool, movie theater and baseball field. When trained volunteers for the Council of Federated Organizations—an amalgam of civil rights groups—flood the town to register black voters and establish schools, their work is met with suspicion and bigotry by whites and fear and welcome by blacks. In this companion to Countdown (2010) (with returning character Jo Ellen as one of the volunteers), Wiles once again blends a coming-of-age story with pulsating documentary history. Excerpts from contemporary newspapers, leaflets and brochures brutally expose Ku Klux Klan hatred and detail Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee instructions on how to react to arrest while on a picket line. Song lyrics from the Beatles, Motown and spirituals provide a cultural context. Copious photographs and subnarratives encapsulate a very wide range of contemporary people and events. But it is Sunny and, more briefly, Raymond who anchor the story as their separate and unequal lives cross paths again and again and culminate in a horrific drive-by shooting. A stepmother to embrace and equal rights are the prizes—even as the conflict in Vietnam escalates.
Fifty years later, 1960s words and images still sound and resound in this triumphant middle volume of the author’s Sixties Trilogy. (author’s note, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 11-15)