Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Book Review: Guardian
At first glance, Julius Lester's novel Guardian looks to be a little on the slim side. But, its cover is striking and so is its storyline. After reading reading it cover to cover in about an hour and a half, I was happy that it was not longer because this story was so painfully accurate and sorrow-filled.
Guardian is the story of an unlikely and unpopular friendship. Ansel is white and Willie Jr. is black. The story takes place in a small Southern town called Davis in 1946. There is little tolerance, if any, for interracial teen friendships in this small town.
Despite the fact that no one in town smiles on these two boys, they are able to spent time together and they even share their deepest dreams. Both are afraid that they'll end up stuck in Davis and end up just like their parents.
What these teen boys cannot know is just how vulnerable they are to the racist culture they live in. I don't want to give away too much of this powerful story, but I will say that Lester does not clean up nasty racist language or the types of vigilante justice that would've been used during this time period or the horrific ways in which whites treated blacks.
So, when a white teen girl is raped and murdered, the readily agree to lynch an innocent black man rather than accusing the real murderer, who happens to be the son of the town's most powerful resident. It is painful to read the pages where the lynching takes place, but given the chart at the end of the novel, lynching was a fairly common practice in many of our United States.
The message that I'm going to take away from this book is that we need to make sure that we speak up for those who cannot. I know that the white characters in this book would've risked their lives if they had stood up to the lynching mob, but I don't know how they could live with their decision to turn and look the other way. I'm not saying that I would've been a hero in this story, but this book serves to remind me that I know that I need to speak up for what's right.