New Orleans, 1960. Schools have just been integrated.Six-year-old Ruby Bridges walks to school every day past a crowd of jeering women, a group of “Cheerleaders” who spit and scream and yell foul words. Louise’s mother is among them, proud of her actions. Louise herself, at thirteen, has never really given the matter any thought. As she herself puts it “Just about everyone in the Ninth Ward believed in segregation, including the Negroes, It was one of those things that you assumed everyone agreed on or you didn’t think that much about. I was in the latter category. I never thought to think any other way.”
Since she “obviously” can’t attend an integrated school, she is stuck at her house all day, doing the many chores required of a boarding house while her mother is away “Cheerleading”. She also has time to be bored, and to be lonely, and to wonder why her relationship with her mother always has to be so strained. When a new boarder comes to the house that is not only Jewish but possibly also a Communist, tensions rise, and the Klan starts eyeing the entire household. Louise’s loyalties are tested, but so is her understanding of her mother, herself, and their relationship.
This is a very powerful novel exploring many of the darker sides of human nature. The exploration of racism and the reasons behind people’s actions are handled very well. It has some disturbing scenes, including the threatened rape of a teenager, and is therefore recommended for mature readers, or those who are emotionally prepared for such scenes.