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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sources of Light

It has been a while since a book has moved me as much as Margaret McMullan's Sources of Light. As I close this book, I have a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. Fourteen-year-old Sam (short for Samantha) has already experienced tragedy. Her father died a hero in Vietnam. A year later, the summer of 1962, she and her mother moved to Jackson, Mississippi to be closer to her father’s family. She states, “The summer before I learned about love and hate all in the same year. The summer before it all happened.” Racial tensions are at its peak in the south. Sam’s mother, a professor of art history at the local college, begins dating Perry Walker, a photography professor. He gives Sam one of his small cameras and teaches her how to use it. Sam begins to see the cruel world around her through the camera lens. Perry and Sam’s mother seek ways to help end segregation. Even though Sam is white, she becomes caught in the crossfire of various horrific events – her camera is her only weapon. Tragedy strikes once again. The characters are convincing, the historical elements are accurate, and Sam’s explanations are powerful. My eighth graders are beginning a research unit on the Civil Rights Movement – this would be a great supplement. It hasn’t been that long since these events occurred. It is difficult to imagine living in a world like that. We need to remember those that stood up for what is right…some giving the biggest sacrifice, their lives.

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