Revolution by Deborah Wiles
“You say you want a revolution?” the Beatles asked smack in the middle of the 1960s when revolution was everywhere. I lived through that tumultuous times but was young enough not to have had the fun part. I was not allowed to go to Woodstock, for example. Of course, I was a young teen at the time and what responsible parent would have allowed that? What I also missed out on that was far more important was the civil rights movement. It was in the background of my life then in the evening news and my parents discussing what was going on. I expect it was in the background for a lot of us who lived in the northeast. It wasn’t in our face like it was in Mississippi, for example. Reading the books that have come out so far this year commemorating Freedom Summer, what was once background is now in the forefront of my mind. And this is the beauty of books, they can transport you back to important eras and fill in the blanks from that time. Freedom Summer: The 1964 Struggle for Civil Rights by Susan Goldman Rubin is a great example. I met the three young men who died at the hands of the KKK and watched the bravery of the African-Americans who risked everything to get the right to vote and be recognized as the first class citizens they are. It was so well-written, so informative, and so compelling – a great read.
Revolution is the second book in a fictional trilogy that deals with the early 1960s. Actually, there has been a new term coined for books like this: documentary novels. It fits. The first book, Countdown, dealt with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the craziness that went with that. I remember hearing about it but it wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized the seriousness of that crisis. My mother told me years later that when she sent us off to school each morning, she never knew if it would be the last time she would see us. That hit me like a ton of bricks! The book is a great read and completely brings alive that time period. Wiles is a gifted writer.
Revolution was fabulous. This book is set during the Civil Rights era in Greenwood, Mississippi where so much happened during Freedom Summer. Sunny is a normal 12 year-old girl who is confused by everything that is going on around her. Why are these whites coming from all over to register the African-Americans to vote? Why did they close the public pool when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed and discriminating based on race, among other things, was forbidden. It wasn’t until Sunny saw for herself how everyone around her was reacting to this Act that she began to understand. It is a coming of age novel in the sense that Sunny begins to see what the world is really like. Read Freedom Summer and Revolution together and you will see that era in a new and important way.