Jessica Kohout's Reviews > The Liberation of Gabriel King

The Liberation of Gabriel King by K.L. Going
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Jun 27, 10


Gabriel King is afraid of many things, most especially moving up to the fifth grade where bullies await him. His best friend Frita decides to help him face all of his fears so he will be able to move up to the next grade with her. They decide to make a list of all of their fears and face them, but Gabriel’s list is three times as long because he must face spiders, centipedes, Frita’s brother, and the old dirt road. The summer of 1976 not only holds these fear facing events, but it is also America’s Bicentennial, a time of celebration, during a heated presidential race, and when racism in the Deep South continues to exist. Gabriel and Frita learn to not be afraid of standing up for what is right, including their interracial friendship. When Gabriel learns that one of Frita’s fears is moving to the next grade without him, he is no longer afraid of moving up and joins his supportive friend.

The main theme in The Liberation of Gabriel King is to face fears. Going begins the story with this theme, as Gabriel must learn to face his fears of spiders, centipedes, Frita’s brother Terrance, the old dirt road, the Evans’ trailer, and Frita being mad at him. Goings builds off of Gabriel’s fears to provide insight about the politics of the time, as he learns that Jimmy Carter was once threatened to join the White Citizens Council and refused, standing up to those that threatened him. Gabriel’s father tries to encourage him to stand up for himself with inspirational stories like that of Carter. There are more conversations that Gabriel has with his father, revealing Carter’s political stance, the current political state, and the Watergate scandal. In these conversations, it is emphasized that doing the right thing is important, even if that means confronting fears. Goings also helps the reader understand the racial tensions in the Deep South by using the theme of facing fears and standing up for what is right. Frita’s father helps Gabriel understand the present racial tensions, as he explains the meaning of oppression and the Peace Warrior movement over dinner. Past events are also explained through Frita’s fears of the Ku Klux Klan and what they did to her family. Although she is afraid of them, she learns to stand up to them with the help of her and Gabriel’s parents at the rally.
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