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Sources of Light Hardcover – April 12, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 7–10—With the camera that her mother's colleague gives her, 14-year-old Samantha records a portrait of life in Mississippi during the year 1962–1963. Perry teaches her how to use it and in many ways how to see. He also sets a powerful example through his activism and determination to do the right thing. Sam begins her freshman year somewhat unaware of the racial tensions that exist around her. By the end of the school year though, she becomes acutely aware of the situation, and she and her mother are directly impacted by those struggles. Sam's personal life has its own pressures as she and her mother cope with the loss of her father in Vietnam the previous year, Perry and her mom grow closer, and Sam meets a boy who seems to be at odds with her views on racial equality. McMullan's characters are authentic to the time and place. The themes come through naturally, as do the imagery and symbolism of the camera. Like many novels that have civil rights at the center of them, this is not an easy read, but it is worth the effort. McMullan's well-chosen words realistically portray the conflicts that Sam, her mother, and those around them face. The truths the teen learns are timeless, allowing readers to identify with her. Make room on your library shelves for this one.—Hilary Writt, Sullivan University, Lexington, KY
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

In 1962, 14-year-old Sam and her mother move from Pennsylvania to Jackson, Mississippi, a city on the edge of social upheaval as racial tensions come to a head. All Sam wants is to “live her life staying out the way,” but she finds that hard to do after her mother, an art professor, teaches a class at the local all-black college and becomes a target of white supremacist groups. Perry, her mother's photographer boyfriend, gives Sam a camera and the courage to record the sit-ins, voter registrations, and the violent rage provoked by peaceful protests. No one is demonized in this novel. McMullan, a Mississippi native, makes her characters complex, confused, and sympathetic. Most notably, Sam's love interest, Stone, seems decided in his racism and dangerous in his convictions; but his search for right is just as important as Sam's. In the end, readers will see the humanity of those on the wrong side of history, and may even feel compassion for them, too. Grades 5-8. --Courtney Jones
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Product Details

  • Series: AWARDS: Young Hoosier Middle Grades Awards 2012-2013
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (April 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547076592
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547076591
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,384,820 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Margaret McMullan is the author of seven award-winning novels including In My Mother's House, Aftermath Lounge, Sources of Light, When I Crossed No-Bob, and How I Found the Strong. She also edited the popular anthology Every Father's Daughter. Margaret writes for both adults and young adults, and she is especially interested in how historical events affect ordinary people. Her work has appeared in the The Huffington Post, the Chicago Tribune, Glamour, The Millions, Southern Accents, TriQuarterly, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Greensboro Review, Mississippi Magazine, Other Voices, Boulevard, Ploughshares, Teachers & Writers Magazine, and The Sun among others.

A recipient of a 2010 NEA Fellowship in literature and a 2010 Fulbright to teach in Hungary, Margaret is the National Author Winner of the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award. Visit her website at: www.margaretmcmullan.com

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Tina Says VINE VOICE on May 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tara VINE VOICE on July 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This has been a great read and I highly recommend it for young adults everywhere. It's a story about Mississippi in the 1960s and the fight for segregation and how hate and racism affects all relationships, working, family, friendships, and community.

Samantha is 14 going on 15 and her after her dad dies in Vietnam, her mother accepts a teaching position in Mississippi. Samantha and her mom have different ideas about race, class, and segregation than the rest of Mississippi in 1962 tho and Samantha is about to find that out the hard way. After her mom goes to an African American college and gives a lecture, people begin attacking her mom in the papers, throwing stuff in their windows, and applying hateful graffiti to their front door. Samantha even witnesses the depths of southern hate right there in her local drug store while angry white men poor ketchup and drinks over the head of a young African American woman sitting at a counter. Samantha's school assignment is to do a report on the state of Mississippi and as she attempts to capture the state from behind a hand me down camera, racism and hate is all she sees.

On top of the race riots that seem to be going on right in her backyard, Samantha is also dealing with her first crush.. to a boy that may possibly be one of those angry white men. Will her personal beliefs take precedence over young love? She must also deal with a budding relationship between her mother and a young photographer.

Great novel. I only grew bored during one part. When Samantha visits her grandparents for Christmas... it really doesn't have much bearing on the rest of the tale... felt out of place. Otherwise, good tale and should be placed on children's summer reading lists this year.
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Format: Hardcover
Your clothes are hand-me-downs from your cousin and make you look odd when you go to school. Your father was killed in Vietnam and you've been told he was a hero. After he dies, you and your mother move from familiar Pittsburgh to Jackson, Mississippi where Mom will teach at a small college.
This is our introduction to fourteen year old Sam. She tries to fit in at her new school, but it isn't long before she starts to realize that things in Jackson aren't anything like what she was used to in Pittsburgh. The pervasiveness of racism is something she initially tries to ignore, but not so her mother. When Mom starts dating Perry, another instructor at the college, their shared view of the wrongness of racism, coupled with Perry's encouragement of Sam's interest in photography (he gives her an older camera and teaches her how to develop her own pictures), force her to look at her new town with more mature eyes.
Her life gets even more complicated when she starts liking Stone McLemore, older brother of the most popular girl in her freshman class. Stone's father is extremely racist and as the relationship between the two teens progresses, Stone has to look in the mirror more carefully that he might like. At the same time, Sam's mom and Perry are receiving verbal and physical threats because of their actions against racism. The book comes to a shattering climax that's extremely real.
This is an excellent example of what historical fiction can be. It's a blend of recent history, family dynamics, young romance and coming of age. While it's been out for a while, I'd still encourage school and public libraries to add it because of its quality and historical accuracy.
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