|Things too huge to fix by saying sorry|
Author: Vaught, Susan
A family mystery leads Dani Beans to investigate the secrets of Ole Miss and the dark history of race relations in Oxford, Mississippi.
|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: MG
Reading Level: 5.60
Points: 12.0 Quiz: 186067
School Library Journal (00/07/16)
Booklist (+) (07/01/16)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (00/06/16)
Full Text Reviews:
Bulletin for the Center... - 06/01/2016 Any hope of a relationship between rising high-schoolers Mac Richardson and Dani Bean is overshadowed by the feud that tore apart their grandmothers’ friendship years ago. Acclaimed white novelist Avadelle Richardson was once best friends with esteemed black historian Ruth Beans, but that was back in the 1960s, before their famed falling out, known among the Oxford, Mississippi and national press as the “Magnolia Feud.” Neither woman would speak about it publicly, and now that Ruth is dying, her mind shattered by Alzheimer’s, and Avadelle is a pugnacious alcoholic, it’s unlikely that the truth will be known. However, in a spell of clear-mindedness, Ruth entrusts Dani with papers and a key stashed away in her purse, tacitly charging her to solve the mystery of the women’s estrangement, which had its roots in the civil rights movement and the riots that shook Oxford when James Meredith was admitted to the University of Mississippi. Vaught deftly balances family story and mystery, and the racial attitudes and experiences of biracial Dani and white Mac contrast starkly with those of their elders but cannot fully insulate them from the families’ strained histories. The awaited revelation of the reason for the Magnolia Feud-Avadelle’s appropriation of Ruth’s civil rights experiences, which she fictionalized into a novel-is definitely dramatic. Perhaps more importantly, it’s challenging, forcing the reader to consider such thorny issues as who has the right to tell a story and how does the legacy of segregation continue to affect kids generations removed from its legal demise. A lengthy note explains how Vaught, a white woman from Mississippi, grappled with these issues and the idea of white privilege in her writing process. EB - Copyright 2016 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
School Library Journal - 07/01/2016 Gr 5–8—Dani Bean is a middle school girl with typical middle school interests. Her focus is on friends, the impending summer break, and the boy who may like her. But lately the most important thing on her mind has been her grandmother, who has Alzheimer's disease and seems to be disappearing before Dani's eyes. It is difficult to watch her vibrant, intelligent grandmother fade, and her family is under immense stress caring for her. However, they are bonded together to make sure her grandmother's last moments are loving and peaceful. It is the need for her grandmother to be at peace that begins Dani's quest to solve a historical mystery that took place during the integration of Mississippi University. As Dani slowly links together clues, she uncovers the fear, violence, and anger that her grandmother knew as a black woman during the racial unrest at the beginning of the civil rights movement. Dani's story is interspersed with excerpts from a book written by her grandmother's former best friend. The novel based on her grandmother's life and struggle is the reason the women have not spoken in years. As Dani learns about her family history and the truth is uncovered, she begins to understand that Mississippi is still grappling with racial discrimination, memories of brutality, violence, and echoes of battles fought. Readers will be drawn to the parallel stories and will relate to Dani and her search for answers. Some background knowledge about the civil rights movement will help young readers understand the full historical context. VERDICT A strong addition to school collections and curricula, especially when paired with nonfiction titles about the civil rights era.—Patricia Feriano, Montgomery County Public Schools, MD - Copyright 2016 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Booklist - 07/01/2016 *Starred Review* Dani’s grandmother is slowly dying while losing her memories to Alzheimer’s, but in a moment of distress and near clarity, she tells her granddaughter to find an envelope she has left for her. After reading the cryptic letter, Dani sets out to solve a mystery. Answers lie in the past, when Grandma and her now-estranged friend Avadelle were young women active in the civil rights struggle in Mississippi. Each became a writer, but a disagreement became a feud that neither would discuss. Complex, layered in time, and occasionally confusing, the narrative includes Grandma’s letters as well as excerpts from Avadelle’s Pulitzer-winning novel, with a climactic scene set during the 1962 segregationist riot on the Ole Miss campus. The eye-opening 1960s segments offer a new perspective to kids today, whose knowledge of the Jim Crow era and civil rights movement is often sanitized and perfunctory. Light dawns for Dani when she begins to see the history of her Oxford, Mississippi, community more vividly and understand her parents’ concerns for her as a biracial girl in the South today. Combining middle-school mystery and civil rights history with reflections on dying, friendship, and the ethics of writing another’s story from a racially different perspective, this novel is ambitious, thought provoking, and very readable. - Copyright 2016 Booklist.