Sunday, November 05, 2006

New Boy

I wonder if the author, Julian Houston, has written a novel that reflects some of his own experiences as a black boy from the South attending a private prep school in the North. In the novel, 15-year-old Rob Garrett is the first black student to attend Draper, a boarding school in Connecticut. What Rob wants most is to be a good student and he chooses not to participate in athletics so he can achieve that goal. The book is set during the late 1950s when the civil rights movement was beginning to build momentum.

Rob discovered that other students of ethnicities different than most were treated in ways that made them feel not accepted. Rob says that white people had an inability or unwillingness to see him for who he really was; however he discovered that they treated others in the same way and sometimes worse. This novel shows the reader that segregation and racial slurs were not limited to Blacks, it included Italians, Jews, Middle Easterners, and more. As you read the book, think about some of the racial slurs that you hear today – how much has changed since the 1950s and how much has stayed the same? When reading the novel, I thought about my own children when they ventured away from the rural Midwest setting where they were raised – one of my children was called the “boy from the corn” because he was from the country (he knew what was meant by the phrase “John Deere green”); another of my children was considered an ethnic minority because of coming from “the country;” and another has found that moving to the East Coast people have some preconceived notions about what one is like when you come from the Midwest.

This novel gives the reader an introduction and some insight into the Civil Rights movement that marked the 1960s. The author introduces the reader to several characters including Malcolm X. I think he presents a view of this time in American history that is different the one you will normally see. I believe the author is able to show the reader what segregation was/is like and also the courage that it took/takes for people to confront that segregation.


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