Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Simeon's Story: An Eyewitness Account of the Kidnapping of Emmett Till by Simeon Wright with Herb Boyd

Most everyone has heard the story of Emmett Till, the black boy who was brutally beaten and murdered in 1955 for simply whistling at a white woman. There have been many document- aries, books, and investigations into what happened to Emmett (known to his family as Bobo). Since the first report (see pages 6- 9, warning: page 9 is graphic) of this horrific incident, the public has been riveted and, due to failures in journalism, fed lies about the story.

Journalists of the time, and even ones up to the present, chose to interview people who were not actual witnesses, the criminals themselves, or just leech off of what had already been falsely reported. After much deliberation, and almost 55 years, Simeon Wright, the cousin of Emmett, decided his story needed to be told.

Simeon's family was hosting Emmett during his visit to the South from his home of Chicago. He witnessed the offending whistle, which was meant as a joke but turned out to be a fatal mistake, and kidnapping of his cousin by his murderers. In his novel, Simeon's Story: An Eyewitness Account of the Kidnapping of Emmett Till, Simeon tells what really happened and seeks to set the record straight once and for all. His book received acclaim from many critics, on both large and small scales.

This novel is a great pick for young readers and a captivating introduction to nonfiction reading. It reads like narrative for the majority of the book, allowing young readers to become familiar with the voice, before switching to a more typical nonfiction style. This switch is gradual and not disruptive to the flow of the novel.

This story brings the memory of Emmett Till back to the forefront of the audience's mind and reminds us of what a travesty it was. Even though African Americans had been free and legally had "equal rights as whites," it will be surprising to many young readers that they were not treated even remotely as equals. Emmett Till's murder set in motion the wheels of progress which eventually granted actual equality to African Americans (as opposed to just being on paper as it was prior to his murder). The injustice of the following court case inspired Rosa Parks to refuse to surrender her bus seat to a white woman.

The fact that this case was influential and historically significant is indisputable. Young readers will be drawn in by the easy-to-read style and unintentionally learn a lot about life in the mid 1900's for black and white people. I was originally reluctant, as I am a die-hard fiction reader and will generally not touch anything non-fiction, but was won over by Wright's style, relaxed voice, and riveting story. This book may not be appropriate for all young readers, as it is a tragically sad and at times graphic and difficult to read, but is definitely recommended to any readers who are mature enough to do so. It would be a wonderful way for a classroom to begin a discussion and historical lesson on the Civil Rights Movement.


Freddy in the Chi said...

In your opinion, what makes a young reader mature enough to read this book? Maturity doesn't necessarily come with age.

BookPaige12 said...

It certainly does not, which is why I did not give an age recommendation.
Maturity is highly variable and would be up to the teacher if he or she thinks it is not too graphic or his or her class or the young adult if they feel ready to tackle some of the difficult issues.
I couldn't give specific criteria or an age requirement, it would be up to the reader if they were capable of understanding the severe
racism and violence and graphic injuries in this novel.

Safa said...

Your review of the book is great. I actually wrote a paper on Emmett during my high school years and received great commentary from my teacher. I can recall as a teenager that reading about the history of Emmett was interesting and shocking. I found out through his story what racial hate could do to an entire era!! In addition, you mentioned that students would be able to unintentionally learn and I agree!!


Tom Philion said...

Nice job Paige! I really appreciated your hyperlinks at the beginning, the one to the 1955 publication is stunning.

I also think your personal evaluation at the end is strong, as many readers will share your apprehension about nonfiction.

If you could go back and insert paragraphs more clearly, and maybe hyperlink rosa parks, I think you will have a superb review (also, remember that quotation marks always go outside of the punctuation, like this , ")