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The Learning Tree

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  1,108 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
"A fine novel."
Photographer, writer, and composer, Gordon Parks has written a moving, true-to-life novel of growing up as a black man in this country in this century. Hailed by critics and readers alike, THE LEARNING TREE tells the extraordinary journey of a family as they struggle to understand the world around them and leave their mark a world that is be
Paperback, 240 pages
Published June 12th 1987 by Fawcett (first published 1963)
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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling1984 by George OrwellAnimal Farm by George OrwellFahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Best Banned, Censored, and Challenged Books
237th out of 456 books — 2,023 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,425)
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Ron Wallace
Feb 07, 2008 Ron Wallace rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Ron by: Howard Starks and Claude Adams
Shelves: top-shelf
I've read the whole book several times and pieces of it ten or more times. Parks was an underrated writer of superb quality. It's another classic to be that is often overlooked.
Oct 10, 2007 Andre rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Great piece of work. Gordon Parks does a great job winding through not just racial issues, but prohibition, class structures and coming of age.

Much better than the movie!!!
Jan 09, 2012 Melanie rated it it was amazing
I consider this to be a very underrated book. Everyone talks about To Kill a Mocking Bird, but I feel this is much more powerful. I never would have read The Learning Tree if it wasn't for my book club. This is a coming of age story for Newt Winger, a young black teen, in the 1920s. The major theme of this book is integrity - standing up for what is right even if it might hurt you. I highly recommend everyone to read this book.
Kitty Tsang
Jun 08, 2008 Kitty Tsang rated it liked it
Shelves: advisory
The Learning Tree is a fictional study of a black family in a small Kansas town in the 1920s. Newt, the protagonist, is an intelligent young man who faces many racial prejudices. Like most characters who faces these issues, he dealt with them in pride. However, he gets into a difficult situation when he witnesses a murder. He has to choose between coming clean or hiding in the dark because a man is being framed for the crime. Doing so will forever change his life. It's either he live with the gu ...more
May 30, 2013 Shakeia rated it it was amazing
First, this was a re-read. I absolutely love this book. I've read it a million times and have seen the movie just as many times. In my opinion, it's a really brilliant book.
Apr 13, 2014 Mal rated it it was amazing
i read this book over 25 years ago and remember it like it was yesterday. definitely one of the best books that ive read in my life. definitely impactful.
Nov 29, 2013 Boris rated it it was amazing
This was an absolutely fantastic book to read!

This book is suppose to be semi-autobiographical. If you know a bit about Gordon Parks and his life then you will see some of his life written into the book. How much of it was romanticized or fictionalized I don't know but that question did not deter me from enjoying this book. The pace is very quick with action in every chapter. You would think this is like diary with one chapter representing one day but the book really spans a couple of years of t
May 30, 2010 Erin marked it as to-read
The Learning Tree challenged
A member of the Mobile county school board in Alabama is seeking to remove Gordon Parks' book, The Learning Tree, from this summer's reading list for upcoming ninth-graders at LeFlore High School in Mobile, reports the Alabama Press-Register. Fleet Belle, who says he has read sections of the book, wants it removed because of its "inappropriate and unacceptable" language.
Jul 16, 2015 Nick rated it liked it
This groundbreaking novel must have been shocking in 1963 when it was first published. Alas, while some of the most obvious wrongs of segregation have been righted, the violent life led by the black characters in The Learning Tree is all too familiar (still) today. Gordon Parks' Cherokee Flats is at once a more innocent place than today's equivalent, and sadly similar.

Parks is not a great writer, but he moves the story along briskly and gives us the interior lives of most of the characters by s
Kimberly Hicks
Dec 09, 2011 Kimberly Hicks rated it it was amazing
I read this book when I was in high school and did a paper on it! Next to "To Kill a Mockingbird," this was another coming of age story told beautifully by Gordon Parks. There were many sections of the book that angered me, but I realize it was the sign of the times, for when this was written. I recommend this book for all reading audiences. Lots of life's lessons to be learned in this book!
May 28, 2012 Roniq rated it really liked it
Fantastic read, a touching and at times heartbreaking human study of Newt and his family living with all of the challenges a black family might encounter in Kansas in the 1920s. A great coming of age story written with sensitivity and strength by the talented author Gordon Parks

Apr 21, 2013 Jacques rated it it was amazing
So happy I finally took the time to read this book. Even though it's set almost 100 years ago, the themes & elements are still as relevant now as they were then. I think everything Black male has a portion of Newt Winger in their souls. Incredible story by my hero, Gordon Parks.
Beth Lind
Feb 13, 2015 Beth Lind rated it it was amazing
Shelves: beth-s-favorites
This felt so familiar and so tragic. Though Newt's story takes place in the mid 1920s, there are some eery similarities in current racial divides. Still.

I didn't realize that Gordon Parks wrote a book until I read about him after seeing his photography exhibit at the High Museum. And Shaft, I remember seeing Shaft when it came on tv for the Saturday night movie special in the mid 70s (which Parks directed). So how does one person become so talented in so many areas?

I'm in awe of Gordon Parks' v
Jul 02, 2012 Trish rated it it was amazing
Had to read this my junior year in high school.. 16 years later it's still one of my favorite books.. It changed my life
Nicole G.
Oct 18, 2014 Nicole G. rated it really liked it
Shelves: banned-books, 2014
A coming of age novel about a young boy living in Kansas in the 1920s. Mr. Parks does not shy away from the unflinching racism young Newt experiences, such as his teacher telling him not to bother with college because he's only going to be a porter anyway. Newt is also an unfortunate witness to a murder, and must grapple with the decision to come forward, fearing the explosion of already-simmering racial tension. This book has been banned in some schools due to extensive use of the n-word, as we ...more
Jun 02, 2015 Monique rated it really liked it
Going in on a classic, a definitive African American novel that actually turned into the first motion picture directed by an African American: the incomparable Gordon Parks-hmm can’t believe I have never read this one and had to be led to this one by the library volunteer recommended reading list as this is a kind of parallel to the infamous Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird…and sigh sadly I have never read or heard of this story as I would have loved to have gotten these amazing life lessons e ...more
People compare this novel to To Kill a Mockingbird and I think it’s justified.

Both are fifty years old. Both are autobiographical fiction. Both take place in the 1920’s. Both take their sweet time describing their small town settings. Scout is a nine year old girl when the novel begins and Newt is a 12 year old boy.

But Scout is white and Newt is black. Newt’s Cherokee Flats, KS is more violent that Maycomb County, AL. The novel starts with a tornado, people die in car wrecks, the sheriff shoot
Timothy Riley
The Learning Tree is in Mt. Airy is named after this Gordon Parks' semi-autobiographical novel. These are the early teenage years of his life in a viciously segregated town in Kansas where his parents grew crops, did odd jobs and where his mother always knew that Gordon-above all his other siblings-was destined for greatness. This is an excellent quick read novel with the backdrop of race-relations, domestic violence and teenage boy struggles.
Maggie Allbee
Not a bad little novel. For a small town, there sure were a lot of things that happened --especially violent things. But this is a good insight into the way African Americans were treated in the early 20th century. For that reason, it was kind of a sad book. Although this book was just fine, I still prefer Gordon Parks's photography -- it speaks more deeply to me than anything he wrote in this book. If you've never seen his photography, I encourage you to do so.
May 04, 2015 Kathryn rated it really liked it
I picked up this book from the MFA gift shop when they were showing an exhibition of Mr. Parks' photography. The novel is -- unfortunately -- still apt. Set in the 1920s, written in the 1960s, it depicts "how it feels to be black in the white man's world." Definitely worth the read.
Apr 11, 2015 Katherine rated it really liked it
"Some of the people are good, and some of them are bad-just like the fruit on a tree....No matter if you go ro stay, think of Cherokee Flats like that till the day you die-let it be your learning tree". So spoke Sarah Winger to her son not long before his thirteenth birthday
Sep 16, 2015 Kidsmart rated it it was amazing
The learning tree was one of the most eye opening books I have ever read about the racism and injustices that black children experienced in the south. I was very young when I read the book but it had a lasting affect on me. Very well written.
Chloe Shriber
Feb 19, 2016 Chloe Shriber rated it it was ok
this was really weird. that part with the storm and the fat woman and the twelve year old having sex, was just...ugh
Jan 03, 2014 Stephanie rated it liked it
A good novel to pair with Harper Lee's, *To Kill A Mockingbird.* Vividly narrated action, this is a realistic, troubling, coming-of-age story filled with believable young characters and a classic cast of adults representing the human moral spectrum. Great storytelling centered around a Black farming family in Kansas. Original cover text: "How it feels to be black in the white man's world...The Learning Tree, A novel from life by Gordon Parks."
Jun 13, 2015 Jose rated it it was amazing
Enjoyed his intelligence and learned vital information about creativity
Karen Rowe
Aug 28, 2014 Karen Rowe rated it really liked it
Shelves: black-books
I read this book a long time ago. I don't remember the year.

Tanisha Nugent
Jan 18, 2016 Tanisha Nugent rated it liked it
Great read on courage and strength of family!
Michelle Tooson
Jun 07, 2014 Michelle Tooson rated it it was amazing
I read this in high school. Great book.
Jan 15, 2012 Nancy rated it really liked it
I read this book for a book club and really enjoyed it. The author was from Fort Scott which is an area of Kansas of which I am familiar with the area. I could see these things happening in the area even much later in history. The setting was a fictional town but I believe that is a combination of a couple of towns. Although you did not see racial issues a much in small town America it was there and this is a good reflection of how things were. I feel this was a good book to read.
Jack Gattanella
Nov 17, 2013 Jack Gattanella rated it liked it
If you read this in high school, as I did, you may not remember everything by the time it's half a lifetime later... but that opening where Newt gets some barn sex during a thunderstorm from an older teenager.... Goddamn.

From the director of Shaft by the way. Seriously it's a good book, I just wish I remembered it better. It had some good life lessons and coming of age stuff. It's what you get when you grow up in Teaneck, NJ.
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Was a groundbreaking American photographer, musician, poet, novelist, journalist, activist and film director. He is best remembered for his photo essays for Life magazine and as the director of the 1971 film Shaft.[2]

Parks also performed as a jazz pianist. His first job was as a piano player in a brothel.[9] His song "No Love," composed in another brothel, was performed over a national radio broad
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