Today was a day filled with a fair amount of reading - a beautiful Saturday of sunshine and the feeling that summer is just around the corner, made even more perfect by the wonderful book I found to read.
Sources of Light by Margaret McMullan is a book that caught my eye at the library a few weeks ago. I was even more excited to see it make the Indie Bound Children's Book List for Summer 2010, giving me some reassurance that this would be a book I would enjoy.
Well, not only did I enjoy Sources of Light, but I will be highly recommending it, and it has left me with a little bit of a let down, not knowing how I can find something next that will measure up.
Set in 1962, Jackson, Mississippi, Sam and her mother are freshly transplanted there after her father's death in Vietnam. While Sam wants to fit in, her mother, who teaches art at the local college doesn't have any intention of blending in, and garners some attention when she speaks at a black institution. Sam and her mother start to receive threatening phone calls, their mailbox is set on fire, and several other warnings are sent to them to try and reign in their desire to help the civil rights movement. Perry, another professor at the college becomes a friend of theirs (eventually dating Sam's mom), and introduces Sam to photography. With her camera from Perry Sam is able to capture Mississippi at its best - and its worst. This is something that most people in Jackson aren't willing to accept or acknowledge at this point. Perry is also someone who wants to help blacks escape the racism they experience, and while he knows it's danger, he is unable to live his life as a bystander, allowing this to go on.
Eventually Sam gives up on trying to fit in with the popular crowd, no longer caring what Mary Alice McLemore wears or what she says. Stone McLemore, Mary Alice's older brother, asks Sam to the school dance, and the two begin a romance impeded by the Klan activities of Stone's father.
This book was absolutely perfect. From the bomb shelter that Mary Alice's family constructed to the Tang served at breakfast, to the space race, and mention of Kennedy's worries over Castro, Sources of Light is a flashback of America in 1962. McMullan captures what life in Jackson was like in the 60s and the small ways in which ordinary people helped create change. Perry's talent at photography helped communicate so much about life in Mississippi, showing in black and white how life continued.
And this book broke my heart and gave me hope - all at the same time. I rarely re-read, but this is one I would happily read again, giving me a chance to find snippets I had not yet had time to think about and appreciate.
Sources of Light is full of references about how photography and life are similar, yet it is this quote that I most enjoyed:
"I thought about courage and how it must be more hidden than anything like love or hate, grief or mourning. Something inside tells you what's right and you know you have to do that right thing to go on living with yourself and with others (217)."
Watch the trailer for Sources of Light below