The author is one of the Little Rock Nine, a group of students who were chosen to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957. The book is a snapshot of her story, just one tale of terror alongside hopeful determination in the fight for Civil Rights in the USA.
Gaining admission for these students was but one battle, won by the NAACP, the Supreme Court, and other antisegregationists. Many who were far removed by space or time assumed "victory" after the students were successfully admitted and began attending the school.
But the battle of surviving and succeeding was fought by these students themselves, who lived through every possible harrassment and humiliation on a daily basis, from the first to the last day of school. The taunting and threats were neverending, in fact worsening as the segregationists became more and more determined that the nine students would not finish out the school year.
Melba was on her own. She could rely only on the support of God and her family, as she spent her sweet-sixteen school year learning to be a warrior of dignity and courage, enduring the hostile environment and constant attacks. The National Guardsmen of the 101st Airborne were inside the school to keep the Little Rock Nine alive, but they had no other authorization. Teachers and school officials looked the other way or blamed the integrating students for bringing the trouble on themselves. One of the students was eventually expelled after she dared to fight back when jumped by a large group of students.
The author writes, "How strange, I thought, to be involved in something that the whole nation considers among its ten most important stories. If it's that important, you'd think somebody would be able to do something to make the Central High students behave themselves. Is it that nobody cares, or nobody knows what to do?"
What are some parallel current events? What's something in our world today that we think of as a "victory," yet a battle is still being fought on the inside? Do we know? Do we care? What can we do?