September started with a sprint that included sending my oldest to his first year of high school, both kids auditioning for school productions, my husband off to a full-time masters program and me trying to turn around edits on a manuscript. It is only now, that I’m finding time to update Creative Chaos. Thanks for your patience.
If you are anything like me, amazing fall releases are pushing your “professional books” budget to the limit. I’ll be posting about two over the next two days!
The year is 1867, and Richmond, Virginia, lies in ruins. By day fourteen-year-old Shadrach apprentices with a tailor and sneaks off for reading lessons with Rachel, a freed slave, at her school for African-American children. By night he follows his older brother to the meetings of a brotherhood, newly formed to support Confederate widows and grieving families like his. As the true murderous mission of the brotherhood—now known as the Ku Klux Klan—emerges, Shad is trapped between his pledge to them and what he knows is right. In this unflinching view of the bitter animosity that stemmed from economic and social upheaval in the South during the period of Reconstruction, it’s clear that the Civil War has ended, but the conflict isn’t over.
Shadrach is caught between being a boy and a man. He is caught between the needs of his family and his own needs for self-actualization. He is caught between his allegiance to old ways and his desire to be educated, and forge a new world. He is caught between hating others and being able to live with himself.
This in-between place is the place of the Young Adult and A.B. Westrick writes it beautifully. I felt her characters and their conflicts deeply. My empathy for Shadrach fought with my own sense of right and wrong.
The setting, despite its grit and tension, is beautiful. Geographical details coupled with vernacular and emotions of the period bring the reader squarely into 1867 Richmond. The reader clearly experiences the “tensions ordinary, impoverished, and poorly educated white Southerners might have felt during the period of Reconstruction,” as A.B. Westrick writes in her author’s note.
I urge teachers to add this book to their Civil War & Reconstruction units. Will there be hard questions and difficult discussions? YES! But this is the purpose of good literature.