Water Tossing Boulders: How a Family of Chinese Immigrants Led the First Fight to Desegregate Schools in the Jim Crow South

Adrienne Berard. Beacon, $26.95 (244p) ISBN 978-0-8070-3353-1
Berard (Love and War) tells the story of the Lum family, a Chinese American family living in the Jim Crow–era South, from the father’s perilous arrival to the United States in the winter of 1904 during a time of anti-immigration sentiment to the 1927 lawsuit Gong Lum v. Rice, the first Supreme Court decision against school segregation. Berard conveys why Jeu Gong Lum wanted better lives—and better schools—for his two daughters, particularly Martha, who was a straight-A student, during a time when segregated black schools often had inadequate facilities. But the book does not go into detail about the poor conditions of black public schools, so when Katherine Lum says, “I don’t want my children to attend ‘colored’ schools” and one of their lawyers argues that “the Mongolian is on the hither side... between the Caucasian and African” as the premise of the case, a current of antiblack sentiment overwhelms a story of an immigrant family simply wanting the best for their children. As a result, this divisive narrative that focuses less on the importance of obtaining freedom and a better education for all U.S. citizens than on how one family fought to secure privilege for their children. Agent: Anna Ghosh, Ghosh Literary. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/01/2016
Release date: 10/18/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 978-0-8070-3354-8
Paperback - 208 pages - 978-0-8070-8316-1
MP3 CD - 978-1-5200-9033-7
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