On the train ride home earlier this evening, I was seated next to a woman and her young son. I was assume he was about 9 or 10 years old. He was reading a book…one that I instantly recognized by the cover. It was a book I read a little over 20 years ago, when I was close to his age. That brings me to this week’s Black History subject in the Flashback Friday series: Mildred D. Taylor’s “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry”.
How I first came across this subject? I first came across the novel in late January 1996. It was tagged as assigned reading by my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Hardy. We read it the last week of January and through most of February as a major piece of the lesson plan.
What it meant to me then? In 1996, it was just assigned reading. As one of the top students not only in my class but in my grade, I took it a lot more seriously than my classmates. Aside from the in-class reading and discussion, I did my due diligence when it came to the homework stuff Mrs. Hardy assigned regarding the novel. I spent time in the library looking stuff up. In fact, that’s how I built my relationship with the staff at the Smithfield Branch of the Birmingham Public Library.
What it means to me now? Much like all assigned reading of my youth, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry was a re-read in my adult years. I did so in October-November 2009, during my weekend rides to and from Downtown Tokyo on the Chūō Rapid. I was astonished on that re-read. It really highlighted my naivety as a 5th grader…about as much as Cassie Logan was. One of the things I took away from the re-read in 2009 was just how valuable that land was to the Logan family. It reminded me of the value I place on the things I’ve bought with my own money or earned with hard effort. The re-read, at 25 as opposed to 11 the first time around, brought me front and center with what racism in the Deep South looked like. In the near 14 years between reads, I learned a lot about the South that existed before my time and this novel was representative of that. I’ll definitely give it a 3rd read…probably in the Fall of 2021.