In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day I wanted to bring you a review of a very moving historical fiction novel. Many people have heard of Ruby Bridges. The picture book The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles brought her story to children. The movie “Ruby Bridges” also brought her story to TV.
A new historical fiction novel, My Mother the Cheerleader, by Robert Sharenow, brings the story of a little girl who used to go to school in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans before integration. Louise’s mother runs a boarding house. Louise has to do many of the chores around the boarding house while her mother protests the integration of her school. Her mother is one of “The Cheerleaders” who screams racial slurs at Ruby as she goes into school each day. Her mother is one of the ladies who spreads hate and continues the cycle of discrimination.
I had never even considered the story of the protestors, nor did I realize how hate-filled and violent it really was. I always knew that Ruby Bridges was brave, but I had no idea what horrific things she had to see and hear on her way to school every day. However, Ruby Bridges is really not the main focus of the story. Louise is the main focus of the story. She tries to grapple with her mother’s lifestyle, attempts to figure out who she is, and how she feels about the people in her life.
When a visitor from New York comes to stay at her mother’s boarding house, her world is opened up to new ideas and she realizes that the rest of the world does not think like the people in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans.
This is an eye-opening, thought-provoking book. And most importantly it is hopeful. Louise realizes that just because one is raised in an environment of discrimination doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.
My Mother the Cheerleader
By Robert Sharenow
Laura Geringer Books, 2007