Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper

Cover image for Stella by starlight Stella lives in a small segregated town in North Carolina in 1932.  It has been a long time since the Klan has been active in that area, but one night, not long before the presidential election, Stella sees the white-clad Klan members burning a cross in a nearby white town.  Stella and her neighbors are afraid, but they rally around Stella's father and two other men who decide to register to vote despite Klan threats.  When hatred leads to tragedy, Stella learns that kindness and courage comes in all colors.

I was interested to read this because of my own experience with the Klan when I lived in Florida as a child.  I am not African American so my view of the Klan is going to be different, but Klan don't really like Mormons either. I, too have see the white clad figures circling a burning cross, and I had a junior Klan member among the kids at my bus stop brag that he knew how to build a pipe bomb.

I thought this was a good story. Draper is able to communicate the fear the Klan brought to communities like the one in the book without showing any real violence.  My main problem with the book was the language.  I was never really convinced that Stella was a 1930's black girl from North Carolina. Draper added southern terms and dialect occasionally, but she wasn't very consistent. It almost sounded like an educated white person trying feebly to sound like a black person (which is not true, Draper is black). There is a lovely melody and rhythm in the language of a true southerner that just wasn't there. I guess I am spoiled by Christopher Paul Curtis, who is always spot on with his dialog. 320 p.

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