Book Review: Ronald Kidd's Night on Fire*

4:28 pm


*I was fortunate to receive an eARC of this book via NetGalley and Albert Whitman & Company, thank you!*

On the 17th June of this year, nine people were killed in a shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The murders were one of racial hatred and have shook the world as yet another in a long line of deaths of black Americans this year. The book Night on Fire is set in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama, centering around actions of activists in their local church, and shows in the context of these recent murders how, painfully, very little has changed in the last fifty years.

Night on Fire is narrated by thirteen-year-old Billie Sims, a white girl living unaware of her own prejudices, who, through a series of race-related events, becomes involved in Civil Rights activism in her local area. She befriends the daughter of her family's maid and they set out to join the 'Freedom Riders', a group of black and white people riding buses together unsegregated. For a piece of middle-grade fiction, I found this book wonderful, not lessening the destruction and violence caused by racial hatred for a younger audience, or speaking about it in a 'round about' way. Billie is not painted as a one-of-a-kind white wonder child who lives her life unaffected by internalised racism. She becomes aware of her own prejudices through the duration of the story and strives to change the prejudices of those around her in her own thirteen-year-old way. In fact, all of the characters in this book have their issues, and that's what makes them human and able to empathise with. 

I don't want to spoil anything about Night on Fire because I found it such a refreshing, quick and educating read, one I would recommend to anyone. In light of recent events I find it an even more important read for young people as it has become even more obvious to us all that racism is not disappearing with the new generation, but still very much prevalent. The murderer of these nine people (Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Clementa C. Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Coleman, and Myra Thompson) was a twenty-one-year-old white supremacist, and that's all I'm going to say about him, because he is not the one who deserves naming. It's over fifty years since the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement and we're still living in this world who cannot accept people for who they are.

You can learn more about the Emanuel AME Church shooting here and there is a link on the Church's website where you can give donations if you desire.

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