Sunday, August 16, 2015

Book Review: Yard War by Taylor Kitchings

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Yard War by Taylor Kitchings
Pages: 224
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Format: Paperback
Source: ARC from Random House
Rating: ☆☆☆☆

It’s 1964 in Jackson, Mississippi, deep in the civil rights movement, and the one black person twelve-year-old Trip Westbrook knows well is Willie Jane, the family maid, who has been a second mother to him. When Trip invites her son, Dee, to play football in the yard, Trip discovers the ugly side of his smiling neighbors. Even his loving grandparents don’t approve. But getting to know Dee and playing football, being part of a team, changes Trip. He begins to see all the unspoken rules he lives by but doesn’t agree with, such as respect your elders. What if he thinks their views are wrong? This engaging, honest, and hopeful novel is full of memorable characters, and brings the civil rights–era South alive for young readers.

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My Review
Normally I do not like to read books set in this era nor ones about race relations. I decided to give the story a chance and I'm glad that I did. It is set in Jackson, Mississippi during the Civil Rights Moment. 

A toss of a football changes a neighborhood. Dee, Trip family maid, is great at throwing a ball. Trip invites him to play a game of football with his buddy. Immediately, his friends are uneasy about the situation but Trip is able to get his way. Unfortunately, play in the front yard got neighbors calling about the black kid play with the white kids. From that point on, the story is about one  situation after another usually because of something Trip tried to do.

Trip intentions were good but however, he never understood that change doesn't always come right away. I think that part Trip didn't want to admit that the people he knew held racist and/or prejudice views. Bigoted people were "those other people" not the everyday people he saw all the time. Not the people who were always nice to him, smiling, and always spoke. 

Another part of him that was spoken about but I think I could apply to the character anyway, is that subconsciously he was afraid that if they were like that then maybe he was too. So if he can do all the things he can do with his friends then he can prove that he is different and change people minds in the process. Trip has a one mindedness that not only rubbed his neighbors the wrong way but eventually Dee also.

I am not old enough to know what it was like during the Civil Rights Movement, thank the Lord. However, being from Alabama I do know the undercurrent of racism. I have been spat on, a dog sicced on me, told to go inside out the rain but my black runs off and called a nigger (Alabama). I experienced having doors locked as I walked by cars, pursed held tightly when on an elevator and few other things. And for the record I have also experience these things in Connecticut (car door and elevator) and Massachusetts (called a nigger, car door, and made not to feel welcome at certain stores). 

The book highlights just how much things have changed. I think everyone can say that things are a lot better than they were in the 60s. And definitely drastically different than the times of slavery. With that being said, there is still a way to go. I could go on and on about the subject of racism but that a post for another time.

I hope that this book will open up dialogue between kids and their parents. I think that most adults would like the book. Even the subject matter is race relation the thread through the book is football so that may be a turn off for girls. I think it is told in a relate-able way. Grab it up for a fast paced read.

"When the rain and the sunshine come at the same time, it means the devil is beating his wife" 
     - I was told this same thing only my gram told us if we put our ears on the nail and be will quiet we could hear it. Good way to get kids to shut up but not so smart to put you head on a metal nail!

"God promised not to drown everybody again, and that's why we have rainbows"
    - I never heard this one

'Mamaw rule against talking about playing cards because they lead to gambling and gambling is a sin.'
     - This one is still a belief with a lot of people in the bible belt. Alabama doesn't have any casinos nor does it have a state lotto. 

About the Author
Taylor Kitchings’ roots in Mississippi run many generations deep, though it took him a while to circle back to them. As a college freshman, he recorded the original album Clean Break, now considered a collector’s item. As a junior, he wrote music for mallet and giant Möbius strip, performed at Manhattan’s Café La MaMa. In the years between his BA from Rhodes College and MA from Ole Miss, he traveled from Memphis to New York to Europe, writing and performing songs on piano.  He and his wife Beth have two children and live in Ridgeland, Mississippi, where he teaches English at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School.  His short story “Mr. Pinky Gone Fishing” was published in the collection Tight Lines from Yale University Press. Yard War is his first novel.

Author Links
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Author Records
Clean Break by Taylor Kitchings
Gamblers and Fancy Women by Taylor Kitchings

COYER Scavenger Hunt
Scavenger Hunt # 21 - featuring a male protagonist - 2pts

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