Thursday, February 16, 2017

Blood Brother: Jonathan Daniels and his Sacrifice for Civil Rights by Rich Wallace and Sandra Neil Wallace

Published 2016 by Calkins Creek

352 pages, YA nonfiction.

I read this book as part of the round two Cybils judging.  It was one of my favorites from that astoundingly interesting collection of nonfiction written for middle grade and young adult audiences.

I have to start by acknowledging the problematic aspect of another "white savior" narrative.  Do we really need another biography of a white male New Englander who traveled to the Deep South to lend an oh-so-important hand to the Civil Rights movement?

Maybe not.  But Jonathan Daniels does deserve to be remembered, and the Wallaces did a beautiful job in bringing his life and the struggle into focus, conveying the sense of injustice and danger as well as the courage and teamwork it took to stand up to it all.

The book is pretty much a chronological account of Daniel's life, with plenty of photos and fine use of primary sources and interviews to keep it grounded in what is known rather than what is guessed.  If like me, you didn't read the subtitle all that carefully, it's made clear on the first page how this is all going to end up for Daniels.  As is the case with each new chapter, a date is given (the first one his birth date) and then a countdown begins--less than 10,000 days to live on the day he was born.

The timeliness of this book cannot be overemphasized.  John Lewis, now senator and object of Twitter taunts from the president, has a key role.  Protest marches are met with resistance, including violence and imprisonment.  Mistrust between potential allies runs high, and as for those in opposition--it seems they lack all human decency.

The Wallaces certainly don't claim Daniels' role was bigger than anyone else's.  In addition to Lewis and MLK, Stokely Carmichael is a significant player, and many women (and their contributions) are named as well.  Still, it's astounding the amount of courage and decisiveness that were required for Daniels to leave his home and education in order to support the effort to register black voters and stand up to Jim Crow in its many iterations.  I was appalled to find out that his life was considered even more at risk than other "interfering Yankees" because--not in spite of, BECAUSE--he wore a priest's collar.  And I can never ever ever wrap my mind around the way racists then and now are able to literally get away with murder.

I thought this book would be interesting.  I did not expect it to be so moving.  You should probably read the March series first, but this one is worth your time as well.

4.5/5 stars

Have you ever heard of this guy before?  Can you wrap your mind around what causes some people to be willing to risk their lives for justice for others when most of us just want avoid threats of violence?  What other books on Civil Rights do you recommend?

1 comment:

  1. I’ve never heard of this book. I still need to read March (the waiting list is insanely long), but I’ll look for this one. Thanks for reviewing it.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!


Please share your thoughts. Comments are almost as sweet as chocolate!