Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry is a book I can vaguely remember reading at school, and one that I am teaching to a different Year 8 group this term, which suggests that its classroom appeal hasn’t changed much in the past ten years. It wasn’t my first choice of novel to study, but after a class discussion on ‘other cultures’ the class’ interest in America became apparent, so I thought it would be an ideal choice.
The novel is told from the first person perspective of Cassie, a young black girl growing up in the Mississippi of the 1930s, where inequality and racism were rife. Cassie’s family own their own land and her Mama has a good job as a teacher at the school for black children, yet Cassie and her brothers do not fully understand why they are looked down upon by the white children of the County. They gradually begin to see that life for black people in the Deep South is far from easy, from their treatment by white shop owners in the local town to the uproar caused when they try to boycott the local white run shop.
I’ll admit that I was slightly reluctant to read Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry again, and that it was not my first choice of novel to teach, however I am pretty glad I picked it up. It is a great coming of age narrative, focusing on how Cassie comes to realise the bitter truth surrounding race in the 1930s, and how life is far from fair for the black people of the community. For me the character of T.J highlights how life isn’t just black and white (ignore the ironic turn of phrase, my Sunday brain can’t think how better to put it), his naivety and his sheer belief that he can be friends with white people and that it is just friendship they want, is tragic. He cannot see that he is heading for a great fall, and when it comes it is horrible not only for the reader, but for Cassie and her brothers as they too come to realise the repercussions of who one chooses to associate with.
Hardly an indepth or enlightening review/post on this novel, but I am using this to jot down my original thoughts, which I am sure (I hope) will develop as I begin to plan for this novel. It has reawakened by interest in American literature, particularly that of African American authors, especially Toni Morrison’s Beloved. I do like it when one book leads me to another!