Mary's Reviews > Riot

Riot by Walter Dean Myers
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's review
Nov 23, 2010

really liked it
Read in November, 2010

“Learn something new every day” is a favorite expression of my dad’s and, I have to say that by reading RIOT, I certainly did learn something new. While I was aware of the terrible poverty, especially of the Irish immigrants and the newly-freed African Americans; the huge class divisions between the haves and have-nots; and the deep-seated bigotry and racism that ran rampant around the time of the Civil War (and, unfortunately, for years after), I didn’t know about the race riots that erupted over the draft (I have since remedied this hole in my education).

The story itself is written in screenplay format with a multitude of characters who come from all backgrounds, providing readers with a variety of perspectives. The main character, Claire, is stuck right in the middle—not too rich, not too poor; a black father and a white mother; and both black friends and Irish friends. Having never faced true adversity, she’s never really had to define her beliefs or face her background and roots. Until the riots. The focus on dialogue creates an immediacy that puts the reader right in the middle of the action and allows a glimpse into the minds of variety of characters. The format of the story, without the detailed descriptions found in a traditional novel, makes the actions of the people involved all the more powerful and urgent.

I’m always for on the lookout for amazing historical novels that will keep my students’ attention while immersing them in past. RIOT by Walter Dean Myers does just that. In fact, as soon as I finished reading it, I ran it right over to my social studies teacher so I could share it with her. It’s exactly the type of historical novel students can truly benefit from—and enjoy.
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