The Children Bob Moses Led

William Heath, Author
William Heath, Author Milkweed Editions $21.95 (317p) ISBN 978-1-57131-008-8
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-1-57131-012-5
Paperback - 364 pages - 978-1-60306-335-7
Open Ebook - 978-1-60306-336-4
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A violent, volatile period in American history-the fight for civil rights in Mississippi in the early 1960s-is brought to some life in this straightforward novel that weaves a wealth of facts with rather less rich fiction. Heath (The Walking Man) alternates first-person perspectives of his two main characters: Tom Morton, a naive white volunteer for the Mississippi Summer Project, organized by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, (SNCC) whose purpose is to help blacks register to vote; and the real-life Bob Moses, the seasoned black activist who holds SNCC together. For the most part, the plot describes or parallels actual events. Youthful activism begins to wane as the ``Freedom Summer'' progresses and the students learn that bullying sheriffs and gun-toting bigots are not the only obstacles to change in the American South. Facing more difficult challenges of institutionalized racism and power struggles within their own movement, the volunteers begin to question their own motives, and their relationships grow increasingly intense as personal agendas become furiously entangled with political ones. Tom's honest, often wry perspective reveals his fears and his determination, and his romantic involvement with one of his students-a black teenaged girl-raises ethical questions that continue to resonate. More problematic is Moses' first-person voice, which offers little of his inner world. The result is that his portions of the narrative often take on a textbook quality. But the large cast of characters gives voice to the complexity of the era's issues, and Heath's clear chronicle of this poignant moment in our nation's recent past is often compelling. (Oct.)
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