Thursday, February 24, 2011

Review - Today The World Is Watching You

Today The World Is Watching You by Kekla Magoon (2011)

If you want to know about a subject, without analysis or too much detail to absorb quickly, the best place to go might be a textbook aimed at a young audience. I certainly found this book to be an incredibly comprehensible, if not completely comprehensive, overview of the events surrounding the integration of the high schools in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The focus of this book is the Little Rock Nine, the nine brave students who fought through the challenge of integration against people who were violently opposed to it, just to go to school. The book starts with a quick overview, starting as the students attempted to enter the school on September 4th 1957, and ends with some questions for the book to answer. Its inability to quite answer the first question isn't a flaw in the book, because it would be very hard to look into the hearts of teenagers from over 50 years ago to see where they found their courage. But the book successfully answers the second question, regarding the experiences of the students and the meaning of the actions in the future.

The first chapter covers the history of African Americans in the United States, touching on many major moments and emphasizing the unfairness and sheer wrongness of the treatment of an entire group of people throughout time. Chapter two is about Brown v. Board of Education from 1954, and the situation it set up.

In Chapter three, the book focuses on Little Rock and begins to really get interesting. The next few chapters take us through the events of that year, and do so in a compelling way. I found myself reading intently and learning facts I did not know. Sure, I'm an adult and I knew all about segregation, but there were details I'd never learned or I didn't remember about this part of the story in particular. The text is illustrated with ample photographs and sidebars that detail further information about the events. One sidebar explains the source of the book's title, taken from an article in the Central High School newspaper.

This book is aimed at children or young adults, but it's definitely worth reading for anyone. It covers a part of our history that is well-known, but does so in a sympathetic and interesting way. The information is well presented and laid out, and the book includes a timeline, who's who, glossary, bibliography, and index. In short, a great introduction to the topic for anyone.