Jami's Reviews > Mississippi Trial, 1955

Mississippi Trial, 1955 by Chris Crowe
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's review
Jun 16, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: historical-fiction, young-adult
Read in June, 2012

This book was based on the brutal torture and murder of Emmett Till, a black teenager from Chicago visiting family in Mississippi during the summer of 1955. The infamous trial, in which the two men who only months later admitted to murder in a magazine interview, found both men innocent of the crime. These events played a crucial part in setting off the Civil Rights Movement in the following years.

So was this an important event and one worthy of retelling from the standpoint of a fictional character? Absolutely. Did Chris Crowe do a great job with it? In my opinion, not so much.

Crowe's main character, Hiram, is a 16-year-old boy visiting his grandfather in Mississippi. He meets Emmett Till and then is witness to the entire trial following Till's murder. Even though Hiram's story is told from a 1st-person perspective, I had a hard time getting very involved with the character or his problems. Maybe it's that there is so much more telling (and believe me, there's A LOT) going on than showing. Maybe part of the problem is how much of the story is just straight dialogue with very little description. Maybe it's just difficult to write your own story while trying to relate actual historical events, so only the very talented can pull it off. I haven't read any of Crowe's other books, so I can't really compare it.

The other thing that bothered me was that when you weren't getting just dialogue, you had to suffer through Hiram's "thoughtful" meditations that were so shallow that he flipped his feelings on any subject from one sentence to the next. For example, he HATES his father SO much and doesn't agree with ANYTHING he says or does. Oh wait, maybe Dad's not so bad and knows exactly what he's talking about. Literally, in the very next sentence, he changes his mind. And this type of quick change of feeling happens constantly through the whole book.

In addition, after Hiram comes home from the last day of the trial, and we're told how absolutely devastated he is by the verdict, the next minute he has forgotten all about that because he's going to see a girl he likes. Yeah, he's a deep one.

I get why so many teachers use this book in their classrooms as it is an extremely easy read and teaches about an important historical event. But is it too much to ask that students get good writing, too?

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Too bad...it could be such an interesting story.

Jami I know--I thought so, too! It's one of the books available at SFHS, so I was considering teaching it. If anything, the writing would only be suitable for much younger grades. 8th grade, maybe. Even then, though, I'd hesitate to teach it.

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