cover image This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality

This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality

Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy. Bloomsbury, $17.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-68119-852-1

Boyce, one of 12 black students who integrated Clinton, Tennessee’s public high school in August 1956, following racial desegregation, relays the story of that harrowing experience in verse. Levy (I Dissent) notes that poetry is a particularly appropriate choice, given the “musicality” of her coauthor’s voice, which is also insightful, immediate, and passionate. Recognizing the duplicity of the court-ordered integration, Boyce writes: “We’re in, yes./ But it’s more complicated than that./ Or, looked at another way—it’s simpler./ ...You can’t stay after school,/ when the fun stuff is whites-only./ Glee club, football, cheerleading?/ No, no, and no./ Simple. That’s the complication.” Boyce poignantly describes the cruelty of white students, as “the little shoves” become “the shove that almost knocks Gail Ann out the window... From the little slights/ come the larger evils,/ and they feel/ monstrous.” While she acknowledges that it’s difficult “to change a promise of change/ into real change,” Boyce never loses hope in the belief that racial equality is attainable and that she can help make it happen. Though her parents (fearing for their safety) moved the family to California in December 1956, and Boyce left Clinton, readers will appreciate that she did make a difference by standing up for her beliefs with resolve and persistence, attributes that shine through in this lyrical yet hard-hitting account of a pivotal chapter in the history of desegregation. Ages 8–12. (Jan.)