katsok's Reviews > The Rock and the River

The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon
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Jan 31, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: rebecca-caudill-2012
Read in August, 2011

Goodness. The easy way to summarize this book would be to (again) say, look at Elizabeth Bird's review. But, here goes. My knowledge growing up of the Black Panthers from school or even literature was zilch. I never even heard of them which is ironic considering the endnotes of this book state that they disbanded in the early '80's. Yet I knew nothing. They were referenced in Forest Gump as something akin to a gang. I picked up bits of history here and there but really didn't see anything positive about the group.

This past year I read the book One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. And I learned more. There was a breakfast program? Clinics were opened because of them? Education classes? I began to learn about this group. Then this book showed up the Rebecca Caudill list and I started it. From the beginning I had a few ideas of how the plot line might go, but wasn't sure.

Sam is the youngest son of a Civil Rights leader, Roland Childs. Sam's older brother is Stick. Sam is the good son, Stick can't measure up in his dad's eyes. The year is 1968 and the racial tensions in Chicago, and the country, are high. Through Sam's eyes we see the injustice, the questions as he meets the Panthers, the confusion as he tries to find his place in this world.

Magoon's writing is beautiful. You can feel Sam's turmoil as he tries to please both his father and his brother but can't find his own way. My own stomach clenched as she described various scenes. Magoon has taken complex topics: Civil Rights, The Black Panthers, and shown multiple sides and layers to these issues.
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