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Hiram Hillburn loves Mississippi; he loves the neighborly community, the slow-paced atmosphere, and, most of all, his grandpa. But, there is an undercurrent of racism that is about to explode that he never knew existed until he's right in the middle of it.

Chris Crowe uses the voice of a sixteen-year-old boy, Hiram Hillburn, to relay the events of the true story surrounding the murder of a fourteen-year-old black boy, Emmett Till, which spurred the Civil Rights Movement. Emmett Till was born and raised in Chicago, IL, and was unaware of the intense racism and hatred that whites held for blacks in the South when he went to visit his relatives in Mississippi during the summer of 1955. In a spur-of-the-moment decision to show off for his cousins, Emmett thought it would be funny to whistle at a white woman, and it cost him his life. Four days after the incident, his body was found floating in the Tallahatchi River, beaten, mutilated, with a bullet to the head. Even though the quiet community of Money, Mississippi, was shocked at such brutal treatment of a child, they weren't going to let two white men go to prison for the death of a black.

This story begins slowly because the author is trying to set up the plotline of the sixteen-year-old narrator and how he came to know Emmett "Bobo" Till during the very brief time they were in Mississippi. Even though Hiram Hillburn never existed, all of the newpaper references and court scenes are from actual documents, which leave the reader in utter shock at how corrupt the Southern jury was as well as the court system as a whole when it came to the murder/lynching of blacks. This book will open the eyes of every reader who gazes upon its pages, and make them mourn for all of the innocents that racism has killed.

This is not the most action-packed novel. It is written as historical fiction, but it's an excellent piece of literature that teachers could implement into their classrooms to set up the context of the Civil Rights Movement. Be aware, however, that the author uses the "N" word throughout the novel to give it authenticity to reflect the Southern dialect and mindset during that time.

 


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