Arminzerella's Reviews > Yankee Girl

Yankee Girl by Mary Ann Rodman
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Alice Anne Moxley’s family moves to Mississippi in the summer of 1964 when her father, an FBI agent, is reassigned to help protect black people who are registering to vote. Alice is accustomed to moving around because of her father’s work, and she’s ok with making new friends, but the girls she meets that summer and when school starts are not welcoming to outsiders – particularly Yankee girls who love “niggers.” Alice’s only friend is a boy named Jeb who makes it clear that they’re only going to be friends when he feels like acknowledging her. Alice has a hard time adjusting to the loneliness of her new home and the ostracism she experiences from children and adults alike.

Not long after school starts, a new student, Valerie Taylor (a Negro girl), joins their class, and just like that their school is “integrated.” The other kids either ignore Valerie or try to make her time at school unbearable. But Valerie never shows any kind of emotion, no matter what cruelties are perpetrated against her. Alice manages to talk to her a few times and learns that they are both lonely and in a place where they don’t want to be. Alice and Valerie are never able to be friends in the easy way that other kids are, and neither of them is entirely comfortable or willing to make the effort to overcome the negativity that such a relationship would engender. When Valerie’s father is killed in a hate-crime bombing, Alice wants to make amends for not being strong or brave enough, but before she can, Valerie and her remaining family move to New York. The incident, however, is enough to make some of the kids rethink how they’ve treated Valerie, and when Alice starts 7th grade she meets Valerie’s cousin and befriends her.

Alice’s story is based on events that happened to author, Mary Ann Rodman – she also lived in Mississippi during integration, and her father was also an FBI agent who was reassigned to help protect the black people who were just trying to have their equal rights. Alice is a likable character for the most part – she caves a bit to peer pressure, but her inner strength triumphs in the end. This was a really powerful look at not only race relations in the 1960s, but also what it’s like to be a child growing up when “big events” are taking place – you still have all of your kid feelings and emotions, despite the fact that you may be making history. Highly recommended.
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Arminzerella I wish this had a more appealing cover.


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