cover image Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock

Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock

David Margolick. Yale Univ., $26 (256p) ISBN 978-0-300-14193-1

Vanity Fair contributing editor Margolick (Beyond Glory) brings his considerable skill to telling a tale many may, mistakenly, think they already know. Bound together in the iconic photograph of the integration of Little Rock's Central High School in which the white Hazel Bryan is caught screaming epithets at the stoic black student, Elizabeth Eckford, the two women went on different paths charted by this sympathetic and readable dual biography. Elizabeth survived the horrendous harassment of her high school years, and the lavish attention upon the Little Rock Nine, followed by a difficult early adulthood. While Hazel's high school years, spent in anonymity at another school, are more halcyon, her early adult years are difficult as well. For both young women, the experience and the photograph that was to follow them were transformative. Margolick pays particularly insightful attention to the photographs and media coverage stimulated not only by the event but all the ensuing anniversaries. As Margolick moves through Elizabeth's days at Central High with new and meticulous detail, he gives Hazel a young life as well before turning to the separate years before they actually meet. Here Margolick's book becomes utterly engrossing, for it touches on a variety of thorny, provocative themes: the power of race, the nature of friendship, the role of personality, the capacity for brutality and for forgiveness. (Sept.)