From Publishers Weekly
The nation's collective memory of the civil rights movement depends largely on journalists and biographers who witnessed the snarling dogs and brutal racist tactics used to enforce and defend segregation in the South. In a more personal account, McKinstry, a survivor of the Ku Klux Klan bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., offers the rare perspective of both a child and an eyewitness to some of the most jarring aspects of blacks' fight for civil rights. Her tale of surviving the bombing, which killed four of her friends on September 15, 1963, vividly describes the force of water from fire hoses that left a hole in her sweater; the ominous call moments before the bomb exploded; and the clouds that formed in her mental sky when she realized that the childhood innocence her parents had relied on to shield her from racism was gone. The text of speeches by Martin Luther King Jr. and short summaries of Jim Crow laws are an educational addition to the narrative, but in boxes alongside the main narrative, they are also a visual distraction from the main text. Depending on the reader's knowledge of the racial disparities McKinstry grew up enduring, the additions will read as repetitive or informative. (Feb.)
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McKinstry pinpoints the date and time she came of age as September 15, 1963, at 10:22 a.m., when the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, was bombed, killing four young girls. She saw the rubble of the girl�s bathroom in which, unbeknownst to her at the time, her four friends were killed. She herself had only moments earlier been in the bathroom with the girls, primping and laughing. McKinstry alternates her account of the day and recollections of childhood in segregated Birmingham, growing up in a loving family in a protective community. She recalls other milestones as she grew up in the South�Martin Luther King�s visit to Birmingham, the Little Rock Nine, the murder of Emmett Till�and her years of living with depression and survivor�s guilt. She remained silent about the trauma, treating her depression with alcohol until she finally had a spiritual breakthrough and later helped to restore the church and make it a historic site. A compelling look at a horrendous act of terrorism and how it changed the life of one young girl. --Vanessa Bush