My Selma -- Review of New Middle Grades Book About Growing Up in Selma During the Civil Rights Movement


Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Today I am sharing a book I had hoped to finish and share during Black History Month. Unfortunately the last couple of weeks (since I have had the book) have been crazy at school and left me exhausted when I got home so I didn't get it finished until today. But what a great book!! The book is My Selma by Willie Mae Brown. It is suggested for ages 10 to 14. 

From the Publisher:

Combining family stories of the everyday and the extraordinary as seen through the eyes of her twelve-year-old self, Willie Mae Brown gives readers an unforgettable portrayal of her coming of age in a town at the crossroads of history.

As the civil rights movement and the fight for voter rights unfold in Selma, Alabama, many things happen inside and outside the Brown family’s home that do not have anything to do with the landmark 1965 march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Yet the famous outrages which unfold on that span form an inescapable backdrop in this collection of stories. In one, Willie Mae takes it upon herself to offer summer babysitting services to a glamorous single white mother—a secret she keeps from her parents that unravels with shocking results. In another, Willie Mae reluctantly joins her mother at a church rally, and is forever changed after hearing Martin Luther King Jr. deliver a defiant speech in spite of a court injunction.

Infused with the vernacular of her Southern upbringing, My Selma captures the voice and vision of a fascinating young person—perspicacious, impetuous, resourceful, and even mystical in her ways of seeing the world around her—who gifts us with a loving portrayal of her hometown while also delivering a no-holds-barred indictment of the time and place.

About the Author:

Willie Mae Brown left Alabama at the age of seventeen in 1970 to start a new life in Brooklyn, New York, where she worked for the New York Telephone Company until 2003. A visual artist as well as an author, she began writing stories about her childhood in 2012 and reading them in public in 2015. Known for infusing her personal narratives with the vernacular of her Southern upbringing, Brown has read at numerous public events including Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations at Brooklyn Borough Hall, as well as at many special events across the city, in her home state, and beyond. My Selma is her first book.

From Me:

What a powerful book!! Willie Mae takes us into her life as a twelve-year-old growing up Black in Selma. She shares various stories from everyday life to events that made the news. In the introduction she wrote about how these are her stories and her memories. Other people may have different versions of the stories as we all have our own stories and perspectives. She then delves into these stories of herself and her family (shared by her family members to her). She describes how life was and how her family lived. There are happy times as well as bad times. Much of the book shares the race issues of the time but some also are just about her own family and different things that happen. 

To be honest during the first chapter I worried that as a white person I was not going to enjoy the book. I was afraid I was going to feel guilty and more as a white person, but this feeling passed as the chapter went on. As Willie Mae shared the stories and the reader gets to know her family, the stories draw you in and are very interesting. They include her hearing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in person, her first time physically fighting, several times people tried to attack her as well as her sister and brother getting arrested for being in the crowd the day the Black middle and high school closed so the teachers could protest about voting rights. This book drops the reader right into the thick of things and explains what life was like for Willie Mae and her family. This is a must-read book that should be added to middle school curriculum. It gives a first-hand story from the Civil Rights Movement. I hope you will check it out!