Will and Rowan are separated by close to a hundred years, but their efforts to confront racial discrimination and adapt to society’s expectations for them are strangely similar. In the 1920s, Will has a tough time resisting the verbal and physical threats of Ku Klux Klan members who will eventually burn down the African-American part of Tulsa. In the present day, Rowan isn’t sure she’s the right person to stand up, either. Both characters make mistakes, alienate friends, and eventually find their way.
I’ll be interested to hear how readers who are African American or Native American see this book. For me, it started a little slow, but became very compelling, especially since both sections mirror real history and current events. I don’t know a person who hasn’t messed up something in adolescence, immediately regretted it, but then struggled with how to fix it. It could provide a great starting point for discussions on race, expectations, and how we make choices. The parallel lives also do a nice job of illuminating how much and how little changes over what seems like a long time. It worked for me. Give it a look.
Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham
For another perspective, see this review at American Indians in Children’s Literature.