These Books Made Me

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

July 15, 2021 Prince George's County Memorial Library System Season 1 Episode 3
These Books Made Me
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Show Notes Transcript

Mildred Taylor originally did not set out to write a children's book when she wrote "Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry," yet it quickly became a children's classic and classroom staple for young readers. We'll reexamine this iconic work that unflinchingly examines racism as the children and their parents find ways to push back against the injustices of the Jim Crow South. Our hosts discuss what actually makes a book a children's book, try to guess how much things actually cost in the 1930s (*insert obligatory "how much could a banana cost, $10?"*) and profess their love for the book's most iconic, very 90s, former cover. Plus, we'll hear from Marsha Quarles, a library associate at our South Bowie Branch, about the lasting impact of this book.

These Books Made Me is a podcast about the literary heroines who shaped us and is a product of the Prince George's County Memorial Library System podcast network. Stay in touch with us via Twitter @PGCMLS with #TheseBooksMadeMe or by email at TheseBooksMadeMe@pgcmls.info. For recommended readalikes and deep dives into topics related to each episode, visit our blog at https://pgcmls.medium.com/.

As a beloved historical fiction novel that tackles a difficult and important aspect of American history and that is often taught in schools, there’s a lot of background research to dive into with this book! Here are a few of the key resources we used.

Two articles about recent challenges to the inclusion of this book in school curriculum:
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/books/story/2020-11-12/burbank-unified-challenges-books-including-to-kill-a-mockingbird
https://www.newsweek.com/kill-mockingbird-other-books-banned-california-schools-over-racism-concerns-1547241
And here’s the title’s listing in the ALA report of the top 10 banned books from the 2000s: https://bit.ly/2SSgkbi. It was most often cited for use of language.

Notably, Roll of Thunder is actually book 4 in a multi-part series about the Logan family. You can see the full series listing here, including the final addition to the series released in 2020: https://www.goodreads.com/series/54001-logans


If you’re interested in learning more about money and inflation from the early half of the 1900s:
https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/this-is-what-groceries-cost-the-year-you-were-born/ 

Kelsey:

Hi, I'm Kelsey.

Heather:

I'm Heather.

Hannah:

I'm Hannah.

Hawa:

I'm Hawa.

Kelsey:

And this is our podcast. These Books Made Me. Today, we're going to be talking about Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry by Mildred Taylor. Friendly warning as always, this podcast contains spoilers. If you don't yet know who else drives a silver Packard, continue at your own risk.

Hawa:

So I know that this wasn't everyone's first time reading the book. So how did your reread compare to the first time you read it? And did you read it when you were younger or were you kind of like an adult by the first time you read it?

Heather:

Okay. So I read this when I was in seventh grade for the first time, and this was actually on the required reading list for my seventh grade class. And the way we did that year, Ms. Robert had a very different way of doing required reading. So we got a list of, I think, 10 titles, and then there were 10 different projects, but you could like mix and match which project went with, which title and which book you read during which month. So my memory is that the month that I chose Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. My friend, Marty chose a book called A Light in the Forest, which is sort of a reboot child version of Last of the Mohicans about a boy that , uh , is adopted by a tribe during U S settlement times. Um, his choice of project was to do a song about the book, which he set to American Pie by Don McLean. And it went, Bye, bye Mr. White Guy, I shot you with an arrow now you're going to die. So that is so linked to this book for me. I did not do a song for Role of Thunder, Hear My Cry. I did a diary. So we had the option to like diary as the main character. So I was diary of Cassie and I made it look very old and like tea stained.

Kelsey:

Of course

Heather:

the pages, because yeah, it was a found object apparently, but, u m , n o, I loved the book the first time I read it. Um , I 've, re-read it, since as an adult and then re-read it again for the pod. And I have to say that this is a hard one for me because while I love it. And I think the writing is absolutely sparkling and beautiful. It's so hard. Cause you know how much hurt you're in for as you read the book, like it's a tough book. Like there's a lot of just sadness in it. And so it's kind of that cringe of like, you know, what's coming. So like every scene with TJ, it's just like, oh no, oh no. Yeah. But beautiful book. I love it.

Kelsey:

Can I just say like, did you even go to elementary school if you didn't tea stain a page at some point for a project? I think that's required, no matter how old the document was, it definitely has to be stained. But yeah, I actually, I didn't read this book as a child. Um, but I read it, I think three or four years ago now just because I was like, this is like a very important text that I have somehow completely been able to skip over. Um, and my experience of rereading it is that I, I was, I was telling everyone earlier, I gave it four stars on good reads when I first read it. And I was kicking myself now because I'm like, this is definitely a five-star book. And I don't know why I, I withheld that fifth star. So I've, I've corrected the record now. Um, I really enjoyed the reread and I think part of it is like kind of like what Heather was saying, going into it the second time, when you know, so much more it's a richer experience. And I think every, every reread probably would add something to the, to the experience of reading it.

Hannah:

I also read it as a child. I don't know exactly when , um, I feel like I kind of read it almost like a required read because although I was homeschooled and so grades had no meaning to me, my mother , um, who was by teacher at the time, had us read basically everything on the Newbery list that she could get her hands on. So I remember that that was one of the books she handed to me and I have a very poor memory. Um, so I remembered very few details of the book until I re-read it for this. Um, but I do remember coming away with the impression that it was a very powerful story. As an adult. I mean, I've obviously have a different perspective and know more history. So it, you know, it, I think it had a greater impact on me rereading as an adult. But I do recall the impact as the child, even though I really didn't understand a lot of it.

Hawa:

I think it's so funny that you mentioned that you have a terrible memory because for me, I don't really remember a lot of books that I read as a kid. Um, even with Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry, that's probably the only book I remember from my childhood. And I think for me it stood out more so like, I didn't remember the plot when I re-read it. So the first time I re-read, it was about a year ago because the final book of the series was coming out. So for me it felt like I was reading it for the first time and it just felt so like, I was like, wow, this is a children's book, but it's really, so it's written where everyone can really enjoy and take something out of it. Um , so I, it really stood out to me. Um, so rereading it again for this. It was like, like you, like, you all said, like you knew what was coming, you were trying to prepare yourself. Um, but yeah, my first reread, it felt like I was reading it for the first time. The only thing that I really remember from it as a child, I think was , um, was the cover that stood out to me. And I don't want to get too much into that just yet, but it's the, it just stood out to me. And that was the one thing I remember as a child.

Heather:

It is interesting that you bring up that it's a children's book, Hawa, cuz I think all of us had that perception of it and certainly at the library it's in the children's section. Um, when I was doing research though on the author part of the pod, Mildred Taylor seemed downright offended that this is considered a children's book. Like she didn't intend it to be that way. And it really was just the publishers saying it will sell better if we frame it that way. Um, she compared it to, To Kill a Mockingbird and said it was written for adults. It just happens to have a child protagonist. I thought that was really interesting. Um, because I think it certainly is a valuable book for children to read, but then I think all of us reading it as adults, you can appreciate other things, other elements, you have more historical context to interpret it with.

Hawa:

Honestly, you saying that makes it make a lot of, some of the elements of it make a lot of sense because I was reading this. I was like, yeah, I know that Cassie is the narrator, but it almost kind of feels like it's an older Cassie that's narrating it almost. Or like she just, it just felt like she had so much wisdom for the time. And I'm just like, I don't know, maybe because of the things that she seen and had. , maybe it made her feel like she had to grow up earlier. But it to say that for her to say that it's not a choice, she didn't intend for it to be a children's book kind of makes it and make a lot of sense.

Hannah:

And we spend so much time in the story. Yes, Cassie, you know, we we get Cassie's nine year old perspective, but she's also, we hear dialogue from the adults talking about, you know, very adult things. I think throughout the book, I was very struck by how much that happens. Like she's overhearing lots of conversations. Well, I thought we could go onto a plot summary Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, takes place in 1930s, rural Mississippi during the Great Depression written from the perspective of nine-year-old Cassie Logan, it tells a story of the Logan family as they strive to work their land and maintain their independence in the face of relentless racial and social injustices. Cassie along with her brothers, Stacy, Christopher John, and Clayton Chester, known as Little Man, struggled to cope with and understand these injustices that they encounter at school and in their larger c ommunity. The Logan children regularly endure being covered with dust or mud by a bus full of jeering white children. As they walk to school, Cassie sees her parents encountering the same prejudices as adults. When the Logan family organizes a boycott of the Wallaces' local store, because the Wallaces are directly involved in recent horrific violence against African - Americans i n the community, Mr. Wallace and other powerful members of the community unite against the Logans . Mrs. Logan loses her teaching position but she and Mr. Logan stand firm i n continuing the boycott despite Mr. Wallace and Harlan Granger, a local business in businessman, excuse me, if he wants the Logans' land for his own, intimidating the other families who are participating in the boycott of the Wallaces' store. The Wallaces r esort to outright violence and attack the Logan's wagon as t hey are driving to Vicksburg, to purchase items from a distant store to supply the participants in the boycott with goods. Mr. Logan is badly injured. Next, Granger uses his influence to cause the bank to demand that the rest of the loan the Logans have be paid in full immediately. Their Uncle Hammer is forced to sell his silver Packard to help them pay the balance. A former friend of the Logan children, TJ, is framed for robbery by two white teenagers and flees t o the Logan farm in an attempt to find safety from the mob who is a ttempting to lynch him. Mr. Logan managed to prevent , TJ from being killed, by setting the cotton fields on fire, which forces all those nearby to work together to put out the fire.

Heather:

Now for a little bit about Mildred Taylor. the dedication that prefaces the book reads: To the memory of my beloved father, who lived many adventures of the boy, Stacey and who was in essence, the man David. In 1943, Mildred Taylor was born to Wilbert and Deletha Taylor in Mississippi, a place that provides this setting for Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Though she left Mississippi as a young child when her family moved to Toledo, Ohio, the Mississippi of Taylor's book is vivid in a way that almost serves as a character as much as a setting. This fully realized sense of place stems from the rich oral history her family passed down to her through their stories and recollections and family trips back to Mississippi. Quote, "I remember my grandparents house, the house my great grandfather had built at the turn of the century. And I remember the adults talking about the past. As they talked, I began to visualize all the family who had once known the land. And I felt as if I knew them too." Mildred honored these stories, not only by creating the Logans in their story, but by also weaving the idea of familial memory and the importance of oral history into the events of the book frequently, showing the Logans passing down their own stories to the next generation. Mildred attended the University of Toledo for her undergraduate degree. She then spent multiple years with the Peace Corps in Ethiopia and continued her involvement as a recruiter and trainer. She returned to school and obtained her master's in journalism at the University of Colorado, a state that would become a permanent home for her. While she was at Colorado, Mildred successfully advocated for the creation of a Black Studies program. She was briefly married and had a daughter Portia, ultimately divorcing prior to the publication of her first novel. Her first book, Song of the Trees, was published in 1975 and also takes place through the eyes of Cassie Logan. Roll of Thunder. Hear my Cry followed in 1976 and received critical praise and numerous awards, including the Newbery in 1977. She followed this with several other books, all but two of which centered on the lives and stories of the Logans , finally concluding their story with 2019's All the Days Past, All the Days to Come. Regarding the Logan saga. Mildred Taylor said in an interview with the American Library Association, quote, "To me, that is so uplifting to find that there are still those who read my books and not only feel a greater understanding about our past, but feel the relevancy of that past to apply to the great turmoil of today's world.

Kelsey:

And now let's hear from Ella. Each episode, our intrepid researcher will enchant us with scintillating factoids related to our book. It's time to dive in and explore Ella's Ephemera.

Ella:

Hi there, everyone, I'm Ella and this is my Ephemera, the part of the podcast where I tell you about some of the neat things I've learned while doing research. When I was growing up, my elementary school had what we called the “textbook closet”. On the second day of the school year, every grade would have an hour to go down and get their books from the closet. You’d get one textbook for every core subject. My favorite part was taking them home afterwards and wrapping them in paper grocery bags, which I then got to decorate. These sets may have felt ancient to me when I was a child, but they weren’t nearly as old as the idea of the textbook itself. Textbooks date back to the ancient Greeks, who wrote their own educational texts following the invention of their alphabet in the late ninth or early eighth century BC. Although the famous Greek philosopher Socrates worried that no longer relying on memorization would “weaken the Greeks' mental capacities”, the texts became very popular. But what we would think of as modern day textbooks, you know, those mass produced for classroom sets, were made possible by the invention of the printing press in the 15th century. After compulsory universal public education laws were introduced in the 19th century, what we would think of as mandatory education laws, the textbook earned it’s permanent place in our K through 12 classrooms. Thanks for joining me on this deep dive. I'm Ella, and this was my Ephemera.

Hawa:

All right. So let's get into a little bit of discussion about this, this great, great book. Um, first let's start off. How do you all think that this book held up? I mean, it's historical fiction. So.

Heather:

I mean, I think it holds up great and I think sort of couching it in the well it's historical fiction. Yeah. That might make it seem like it would hold up better just because it's about the past. But I actually think a lot of historical fiction is incredibly problematic on reread in a way that this book is not. Um.

Hawa:

That's a good point.

Kelsey:

Yeah, I agree. I think it, I think it holds up extremely well. And, and I agree with you, Heather. I think , um, as we've been going through this, this prod project, I kind of expected anticipate that in every book there's going to be something that kind of makes me uncomfortable or that we just wouldn't say today, or even if the author had the best of intentions, it's just things have changed. And for me, this book felt current. It felt like something that, that someone would write today and would still have , um , as a historical fiction work, a lot of relevance. And it does have, there's a lot of issues that come up that are still, we're still grappling with today that kids are still learning about. And I think there's a lot of educational value in the book still.

Hannah:

I agree too. I think there's a evergreen quality to this book. Um, I mean you and Heather have already said , uh , um , a lot of why that is, but I just think it, it really rings true and it's, enduringly relevant.

Hawa:

So it's interesting because I see that we all agree that the book has, has held up pretty well. But despite that it's still on the ALA's probably like top 100 list of books that have been banned , um, throughout the country for various reasons. Um, a lot of the original bans focus on , um, being banned for the offensive language, which if anybody has read the book that, you know, that they use the N word in this book , um, and there also have been recent bans that have focused on the depiction of racism, which I think is interesting because the article that I read it talks about how , um, you know, there was a school that banned the book because , um, three, there were four parents who banned, who wanted the book to be banned. This one amongst others like To Kill a Mockingbird, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Of Mice, of men. Um, and three of the parents are black and they said that the book challenged, they challenged the book for , um , potential harm to the District's 400 Black students. So in the article, it talks about how, you know, one of the white students approached a black student and was like taunting them using the N word. And , um, they said that the student will learned that word from the book. So that was why they wanted to ban the book. And to me, I don't think that I , I definitely see how those children should be traumatized, I think, can be traumatized by that. I think that it's more of a, you should teach your children better, not, we should ban this book that has very real experiences in it, you know? And most likely I think that that was kind of like a cop out because most likely if the kid was, felt comfortable saying that word to a child that wasn't the first time they heard it.

Heather:

Yeah. Hot take. If that was the first time their child heard the N word and they took from this book that, that was okay to taunt someone with, they failed miserably as parents. Like, but I agree [ inaudible ]

Hannah:

Right?

Heather:

Exactly.

Hannah:

That just like, if that's what you took away from that book that it's okay to call some that were, you really did not read the book. Yeah. I mean, yeah. And then the parenting is obviously, you know, in play there as well.

Hawa:

Can you, oh, sorry, go ahead Kelsey.

Kelsey:

Oh, no, no, no, no, go ahead, Hawa

Hawa:

I was go say like, and you know, obviously like the parents have genuine concerns. Like she said that her daughter was traumatized, but you know, I think that them saying that the book is problematic specifically because this article is touching on other books as well, but I don't necessarily feel like Roll of thunder, Hear My Cry was problematic in that sense. Whereas Heather, you know, you mentioned yes, it's historical fiction and other books may not have held up as well. I think some of the other books that are mentioned in this article, like To Kill a Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn maybe may not have held up as well, but I don't necessarily think that's the case for , um, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.

Kelsey:

Yeah. One thing I was thinking about while I was reading this, I'm also doing a rewatch of the show Parenthood right now. And there's an episode where , um, there's a mixed child on the show and he hears the N - word for the first time. And his parents are struggling to, like talk to him about, or figuring out how to provide context about like, what is the history of this word? And while it was interesting to like, watch the show while reading this, cause I was thinking like, oh, they should obviously talk to him, but also give him this book. Cause I feel like that really would help me as a child understand like, oh, that's why this word, like, that's how this word was used. That's why I shouldn't use it. That's like the context, obviously, you know, there's all different ways to learn it, but I just was thinking like, oh, this would be such a useful educational resource.

Heather:

Yeah. And it's interesting that when you said this book had been challenged very frequently, I often feel that books that are banned books that are challenged, they can kind of wear that as a badge of honor sometimes because often it means you're making someone uncomfortable in a way that they need to be made uncomfortable. But I was also imagining that the challenges were whitewashing. It was saying like, no, we don't want this depiction of racism because you know, I don't see color or whatever the, you know, whatever the buzzwords in that particular complaint would have been. So it's interesting to hear that it was coming from the parents of Black children, objecting to how it was making their kids feel in the classroom. And I can imagine this would be a really hard book to teach. You know, obviously I came at this as required reading. Um, but because of the way it worked, we were presenting something. It wasn't like we were reading as a class and having active discussions about the text. So I can see that it might be challenging to read this as a class. You know, how do you do that in a way that makes the classroom a safe space that doesn't make somebody traumatized , um, by experiencing the book. And I do wonder how much of that had to do with how the book was being taught in that school versus the book itself.

Hawa:

That's a good point. I think how the book was being taught in that school definitely plays a role in that. And I mean, a lot of, especially a lot of Black children who were surrounded by a lot of white children in school would definitely tell you that they remember the first time that they were called the N word or they remember the first time that, you know, maybe they were reading something in class, you know, like back in the day you used to do like read alouds and stuff like that. And they would expect you to be the one to say the word. And it's just like, okay, well that doesn't necessarily mean that I'm comfortable with saying it just because I'm black. So I definitely see where the parents were coming from with that, especially because they may have experienced something like that growing up too. And they didn't want their kids to , um, feel that way. I just wish that the takeaway for the, the school system was in part, okay, so these kids are acting like this, about this. How are we gonna move forward and, how are we going to make sure that these kids are not traumatized by it, but also how are we going to make sure that these kids who are going around and taunting other kids know that this is not right and the article doesn't address any of that at all. So.

Hannah:

That seems like a behavioral issue and not a text issue.

Hawa:

Oh, for sure. Exactly. And I think another thing like, like you kind of mentioned a lot of books that are banned, typically the books that need to be quote unquote banned, not to say that I believe in censorship, but you know, it's never really the ones that actually are banned. The ones that are banned are usually the ones that are, you know, out here, they have something to say about what's going on or people don't like what's being reflected possibly. They feel like about themselves. Because I think that in this book it shows that there are definitely different levels to racism. And I think that people feel like, you know, that could be a commentary of themselves or even just, you know, Yeah.

Kelsey:

I wanted to talk about thinking about this book as a historical fiction and something that still holds up. I think also speaking to like why I think it has so much value is like, I think, I think it's such an, it provides such nuance. And as you were saying, Hawa, like so many different levels of talking about this issue and a scene that really stood out for me is , um, when Stacy is talking to his father about Jeremy Sims wanting to be his friend and trying so hard to be his friend and his father saying, you know, it's probably for the best, that you stay away from him. And I think a lesser book or a book that was trying, maybe not written by a person of color would say, you know, oh, he's being nice. Like that's a good per- like you should be friends with him. And I think it's much more interesting and much more complicated for the message to be, you need to protect yourself first. And like, it's great that he's being nice to you, but like, you need to create some distance and like look out for your safety. And I feel like there's so many lessons for like now, if, if a child or an adult is trying to understand, like, why are there, like, why is it okay that there are Black only spaces? Or like, why are we like, why are there like tensions? Like I think that's a really interesting message too, that I was kind of reflecting on a lot, was reading that. It's a very short scene, but it really stood out to me.

Hawa:

It's so funny that you brought that up because that's actually what I was about to say before I hesitated, I think the whole, the whole scene with Jeremy Sims, like, you know, in the beginning, the first, very first chapter of the book starts off very serious, to be honest in the very first chapter, they talk about how, you know, Jeremy Sims, he sees he's this white child they'd go to different schools. He meets up with them to walk halfway to school, just to kind of go separate ways. And you know, his sister basically says that, you know, like they make fun of him because , um , he's hanging out with these Black Logan children. Sometimes he'll come up the next day and he'll have like red welts on his arm. And his sister was like, yeah, you know, he got that from hanging out with you all. And he still insists on hanging out with them, even though they aren't super receptive to him. And I think that maybe some parents may see that scene as well. Why are you saying that he can't be friends with me just because he's white and you're Black and he hasn't even done anything wrong or you just putting all white people in the same box. And I think that they don't realize that it was what they had to kind of do to like almost protect themselves, especially back then. Um, you never know what the intentions could be or something could happen to him. And then all of a sudden it could get blamed on them. And I think even now with people, I think as a Black woman, I think even still that we are still very mindful of like the kind of spaces that we, you know, take part in and you don't want something that you do to kinda reflect or fall back on someone. So I think I could see why parents would have, I could see why they would have a problem with it. Not necessarily like, I believe that, but yeah.

Heather:

I feel like there is nuance there and in the book though, as well, because you, you don't just have that in isolation. You also have the character of Mr. Jamison where I, I felt that the book was trying to point us towards like, Hey, best case scenario, Jeremy grows up and he can do better than this even, you know, but this is kind of the best we have right now is Mr. Jamison saying, yes, I'll take a bit of a risk. Yes. I'll back the debt. Yes. I will intervene and try to keep them from, you know, lynching, TJ , uh, when they go to the Avery's house. So I, I think there was something there that was, you know, trying to point to, yes, this is, this is sort of the end outcome. There can be some sort of relationship there, but again, yes, there's gotta be some element of protection built in, especially because we're told, you know, the Jamison's had been a, a good family. They were always , um, you know, better citizens of the community. Whereas the Sims, Jeremy's the outcast because of how he relates to the Logans. Um, and probably other reasons too. I mean, he sleeps in a tree he's he clearly doesn't fit in his family very well. Um, so I, I don't know. I feel like, yeah, that's people kind of being obtuse about things. Um , you know, if, if they're not seeing that there was meant to be a spectrum here, like this isn't meant to be shutting things down completely. It's showing that there's very few ways for this relationship to exist and even best case scenario, it's going to be unbalanced in the end, right? Like one person has the power and you hope that they use it in a positive way rather than a, a negative way. But the system itself is, is broken.

Hawa:

I think people are used to these kinds of stories having more white saviors and that this story didn't do that. And that's the problem with it for them. But that's what makes it genuine.

Hannah:

Well, like you were saying Hawa, like you see the risks for , uh, Jeremy and Mr. Jamison are so much less than they, than they are for the Logan children or the Logan adults.

Hawa:

Right. Cause it's like for, for Jeremy and Mr. Jamison, like, you know, they're, they're acting in their pod, they're, they're acting and doing what they're doing and, you know, the consequences are possibly there, but for the Logan children, they're just like, you know, I'm scared to even get to that point because I don't even want to see what those consequences could look like. Meanwhile, Jeremy's kind of seeing them and he just like, well, you know, I'm still gonna keep on at it.

Kelsey:

Yeah.

Hawa:

Okay. So , um, we all know Cassie's like a main character in this book and I guess that plays a major role as to why she's on the cover of all these. Um, do you all think that she's a good role model and like, what do you think that we , um , could learn from her?

Heather:

I think she's a very relatable role model. I mean, she certainly, she certainly has her flaws. Her temper is quick, you know, and that's mentioned several times in the book and of course she gets herself into a real pickle when they go into town with their grandmother. Um, but she's, she's strong and she doesn't back down and, you know, she's, she's very smart. She cares deeply about her family. I, I think she seems pretty open-minded, you know, she seems to be very curious, other people, you know, Mr. Morrison, she kinda takes to him immediately. She's not, you know, put off by him being there. She wants to learn more about him. So she, she seems to be willing to meet people where they're at. Um, so I think there's, yeah, there's a lot there. I, I was really seizing on her dad saying, you know, Cassie, you're a lot like me, but you have Uncle Hammer's bad temper. Um, and her dad in the book, his name is David, and this is really a David and Goliath story, isn't it? Right? Like, it's that people that are trying to take down this giant thing, that's so much bigger than them by organizing the boycott by, you know, trying to use their cleverness to get around systems that are just, you know, so awful, you know, setting the fire is just brilliant because it's probably the only way that things could've worked out as they did.

Kelsey:

About what Cassie did with , um, Lillian Sims and that was kind of like her being her dad. Right. Cause if she was being like her Uncle Hammer, she would have just like screamed at her and got herself in trouble and probably cause really big drama between the families. But she played this long game with the, you know, acting like her, like personal assistant for a while. And then finally when it was the right time, making sure that everything was in place so that she could kind of get her revenge and teach this girl a lesson, but not have any consequences.

Heather:

She got to do both

Hawa:

[ inaudible] didn't all your secrets.

Heather:

Yeah. But like she Got to be Uncle Hammer and her dad in that moment, she has to long game with the like blackmail, but she also, you know, she beat her up pretty good.

Kelsey:

Yeah. Yeah. I just, I really admire, Cassie C - has a very, very clear sense of right and wrong. She has a very clear sense of herself and she's, like Heather said, very open-minded and I really appreciated that. And I could see myself really aspiring to that as a young reader.

Hannah:

I mean, I think she's brave. Um, I think she's relatable. Like I said, I mean, I also see her, I see her, her dad and her and her uncle lived through me. The establishing character moment for Cassie was near the beginning when they got the books in school and they're, you know, they're old and they're falling apart and they're dirty and Little Man who likes things to be, you know, neat and clean and , uh , fresh comes up and says ask for another book. And, you know, she's like observes him observing the book and she's like feeling bad for him cause she knows he'll be upset. And then she, you know, sort of like bravely like makes a fuss to try to take some of the attention off him. You know, even though she knows there'll be consequences for that. I think that is like a very, you know, she, she's maybe a little bit impetuous, but um, you know, she has heart and perception and compassion at the same time.

Hawa:

I think I definitely found Cassie to be relatable. She kind of reminded me of herself. She definitely kind of had like a mouth on her. Um, I'm glad that you brought up the thing with the textbooks because that's something that I kind of want to go back to. Um, I thought that that whole scene was really interesting because , um, it was kind of the first time in the book that you see some kind of variation of the N word and you know, that it's interesting to see how the teacher reacted to, because she was basically like, he can't read, what is he, what is he upset about? And then even when Cassie's like, no, he can read. And she's just like still, well these books or, you know, whatever, it was really interesting to see how the mom reacted , um , versus how the, versus how, you know, their teacher reacted. Were you guys surprised that she acted like that? The teacher acted like that anyway.

Heather:

No, because I think that, you know, and one of the things we've sort of talked about with feminism on this podcast, like how much things get internalized. So when a system is wrong or it's flat or it's stacked against you, that's built into everything, right? Like it's built into the language, it's built into things like the books. Like there's no way that doesn't get internalized in some way. And so for her teacher, Daisy Crocker, I think was her name to, to sort of be like, well, no, we should just be glad that we have the books. And like, this is just the way things are, you know, I'm sure from her perspective, she felt like she was doing the best thing. She's making sure that the kids get educated and that's better than them being not educated. You know, I thought it was a really interesting , um, dichotomy between the person that kind of is okay and accepting of the status quo without making that be a bad person. Right. Like she's doing what she thinks she needs to do to get along and do the best for the kids. Whereas Mary takes a stand on.

Hawa:

Yeah. And I mean, I'm sure she was scared honestly. Like I think what was interesting for me was that even when she had the conversation with , uh, you know, their mother, their mother was just like, well, she was just like, well, are you going to punish them? And she's just like, yeah, I got this. Like, you know, really, she was just like, you know, I'm going to go back and cover all my seventh graders books too. So they're going to know exactly who did it, so you don't have to worry about getting in trouble. I think that, of course, as a teacher, I don't think that she would have stood for the restoring of the books in front of her students, but it would have been interesting to see if she kind of had a slightly different approach when talking to Mama. But then again, I think they always saw Mama as being kind of like disruptive

Kelsey:

Well, and it's cool to me because it shows like all to a reader, all the different ways you can protest, right? It's not just marching, which has a lot of value, but it's also boycotting. It's also putting a piece of paper over a, a page in your book. Like it's a very small act, but it has really big, sends a really big message to all the students in her class. It sends a message to the school when they find out. And there's all these different levels of kind of pushing back in all different ways. Um, and I think if you're a child who's reading this and really conscious of , um, all the issues that exist in the world, seeing all these different ways, you can kind of push back against these issues and not just have to accept the status quo is really powerful.

Hawa:

I think it's interesting because it also shows the different ways, like, yeah, just because they were both black women, they didn't both feel the same way about this one topic. So that was also kind of interesting to see.

Heather:

Yeah. I thought it was a nice bit of writing too. I mean, again, I think this book is just, it's pretty sophisticated , um , for a children's book, whether, whether she meant it to be a children's book or not, it's still good writing. Um, and just sort of the Chekov's schoolbooks there, right. It was, you see the books and maybe you're not thinking that that's going to come back in any real sense. And then it comes back later with the school board coming in and firing her, but then it comes back later again at the end of the day, I mean with TJ, but I think probably losing his life at the end of the book, I think certainly things point that direction. Um, you know, to some degree started back with that simple act of defiance on your mom's part. Um,

Kelsey:

Did, did , uh , this is a bit of a tangent, but did she have to do any rewrites to make it like once they decided that it was going to be a children's book, did she have to rewrite anything or did they just kind of, she had already written it and they just categorize it that way.

Heather:

They just categorized it that way. And she's an interesting person. So I think Cassie must be a lot like she was as a child. Um, she seems very unbending on certain things. So her very first novel didn't end up getting published because she objected to the rewrites that the editors wanted to make to publish it. So she just never published it. And then later she was talking about how at various times when they were going to republish the books , um, there were asks for certain pieces to be omitted , um, particularly around the language or , uh, to tone down certain scenes and she refused to budge on any of it. So, no, it seemed like it was just a publisher's choice. Like, okay, it's got a child as a protagonist. I think the words that she used was that the publisher said it would get lost in adult fiction. Um,

Kelsey:

Cause I'm just, I'm now I'm like thinking back over it and thinking what I have read it as a children's book, if it hadn't been categorized to me as a children's book before I read it. And like, there are definitely some scenes where I feel like she kind of overexplain, like in a way that you do in a children's book. And you may, wouldn't in an adult book. Like when her dad , um, sets the field on fire, like you probably didn't need the extra sentence. It said, like I figured it out, he set the field on fire. So like, I think it does kind of read like a children's book, but I'm curious if anyone felt differently and sorry, this is like a bit of a tangent, but I'm very interested in.

Hawa:

No it's not. Um. So from my most recent reread, it's weird because I was kind of like going back and forth on whether or not it felt like it was written for a child or in, for an adult, like certain things like , um, they, they make references to the KKK. And I don't remember if they actually ever said KKK or Klan, but they'll say stuff like, oh, they're riding tonight or they're burning. And I was just like , um, depending on the age of the child reads this, I don't know if they would understand that those are references to the KKK, but an adult definitely would. Um, so I think that the first chapter of this book does a really great job at introducing us to the personalities of the Logan children. I think that all the, the, the children and we're just this family in general, they all really have like really distinct personalities. Um, and they're also just a really close knit family. I feel like, like you can tell, like when, when Cassie sees Papa in that second chapter, when he's coming with , um, Mr. Morrison, they're all just get so excited that they just jump all over him. So what did you like, how did their family dynamic make you feel, I guess like, or any thoughts that you have about just like their family dynamic in general? I can reword that question. Yeah. It felt very realistic to

Heather:

It felt very realistic to me. Um , it seemed like a living, breathing family. Those are the kinds of dynamics you have in a family. All of the characters did seem fully realized and like individuals and not just plot points or set dressing. Um,

Hawa:

Yeah, I liked it. They were all kind of seemingly like on one accord, like when , um, you know, when TJ gets their mom fired, you know, that was Stacey's best friend, but, you know, and I'm sure it was hard for him to kind of like distance himself, but he was like, no, this is my mom. Like, you know, like I can't believe y'all did that, you know? And of course TJ goes through struggles too, like at, towards the end of the story. But before that, they're like, no, we're not talking to him. Like you got my mom fired.

Kelsey:

Yeah. I think Stacey is a really interesting character because he's at such a challenging time where he's, you know, his dad's away. He's trying to figure out like how to be the man of the house or whatever, trying to negotiate the dynamics, where he feels a lot of pressure that he's kind of putting on himself in a lot of ways to, you know, take care of his family, to be responsible for those things. And his dad's trying to figure out how to slowly bring him into that without overburdening him. Cause he is 12. And I think , um, I think that was really interesting to see as well

Hannah:

Yeah. I mean, I think the Logan family feels very warm. I mean, they don't feel like a family that, you know, they don't feel like , uh , unrealistically , um, perfect family, you know, they're clearly human. Um, and you know, they, they argue and , uh , they have struggles, but there's just this like warmth that you kind of feel that, you know, from every member of the family that is very appealing.

Heather:

She just does a really good job with families in general, in this book. I think because even the other more peripheral families feel very well-developed, you know, the Averys, you get a real sense of what life in that home would be like. The dad is not in the greatest of health. TJ has sort of run wild. Caught is embarrassed by his brother's behavior. The mom feels like the whole situation has gotten away from her. The Sims. Similarly, you get a really good sense from both William's behavior. And then Jeremy's words about his family, of what life in that home looks like. I think she has a really good sense of observation and sense of people and being able to convey that in the book, all of the characters in this book feel very, very rich to me. And they feel like human beings and not, not just, you know , uh, an archetype.

Hawa:

Yeah. All the characters definitely really have their own. It doesn't feel like they're just copy paste with a couple of things changed about the characters. Like they're all like super like defined. I think she does a really great job of like making Jeremy out to be like the black sheep of his family. She does a really good job with that also.

Hannah:

I have questions about his tree house that he sleeps in, but that's a tangent. I'm sorry.

Hawa:

How do you all feel about, you know, the ending of the book,

Heather:

The last lines, man, those are, they hit. I cried for TJ and I cried for the land. Is that right?

Kelsey:

Yes. I cried for TJ.

Hannah:

Just, I mean, you can't help, but you know, wonder what's going to happen to TJ and you can't feel that it's going to be good. And, and then I'm worrying about the family being able to pay the bills down the road with , uh , you know, having lost some of their crop and you know, their father not being able to work on the railroad is, I mean, I know they got the mortgage or the loan paid off, but I mean, that's, you know, maybe a smaller thing, but like, you know, there, it's going to have an effect on them and it's just a very bleak outlook.

Heather:

Yeah. There's no neat, happy ending, but in some sense it was the least bad ending possible. Given how off the rails things had gone by the end, all set in motion by TJ and his bad choices. You know, the dad doesn't sugar coat that, yeah. TJ is probably going to hang for this, you know, it'll be a judicial hanging, but you've got a dead shop owner and two white boys saying TJ did it. So the ending is not like a children's books. Is it okay

Hawa:

Is it okay if I read some of the ending? Are you okay with that? Yeah . So this is going to be a little bit before the last paragraph and just the last paragraph: "Come October, we would trudge the school. It's always barefooted and grumbling fighting the dust in the mud and the Jefferson Davis school bus, but TJ never would, again, I had never liked TJ, but he had always been there a part of me, a part of my life, just like the mud and the rain. And I had thought that he would always be yet the mud yet the mud and the rain and the dust would all pass. I knew and understood that what had happened to TJ in the night, I did not understand, but I knew that it would not pass. And I cried for those things, which had happened in the night and would not pass. I cried for TJ, for TJ and the land." And I think that it ending that way. You know, we all knew that Cassie didn't really like TJ, but I think that, you know, at the end of the day it still kind of felt like, you know, he was one of our own. So she was really, you know, hurts to see that happen.

Heather:

Well, and it's an injustice and we've seen throughout Cassie can't deal with injustice like that is her thing. It sets her off. So, I mean, she's like her mom in a lot of ways, right. Her mom's organizing a boycott, Cassie is organizing her campaign against Lillian. You know, that all stems back from the injustice done to her in that shop and on the street. For all of TJ's failings, he didn't murder that man. And there's no consequences for the actual perpetrators of that. He just made bad choices in friends and was along for the ride, but he's going to be the one that does the time for it, or probably loses his life over it. Um, and again, just such good writing because that's what he did to Stacey with the cheating, right? Yeah. He threw Stacey under the bus and he, you know, earlier threw Claude under the bus for things, Claude got whipped for something that TJ did, Stacey got whipped for something that TJ did, you know, to then close it with the same thing happening on a much more horrific scale to TJ. That's tough. And I think that that produces the sort of like conflicted feelings that someone does feel when someone that's part of your life, but not a person that you love particularly. But is there even if there may be not a person you even like when they pass, you, you do have these conflicted feelings like Cassie does at the end of the book where it's like, well, he was always there. And so there is a sense of loss, even if she didn't like him, I think it's beautiful writing like.

Kelsey:

Well and It ties back to this idea about, you know, can they really trust Jeremy, he's being nice, but we don't know how honest that is or when it's going to turn. And obviously for TJ, he trusted RW and Melvin , um, even though he kind of probably knew deep down, you know, they were not great, but he, he kind of felt like he could hang with them or was exceptional in some way or things would be different for him. And they weren't. And I think that, that ties back to that piece as well. Like you don't really know who you can trust or what what's going to happen if you, if you let your guard down.

Hawa:

Yeah. I like that. You touched on that. Cause I was literally just about to say that, like, you know, he got caught up with them thinking he was just having a good old time and he didn't necessarily think, you know, and you know, granted, you, you re as a reader, you may have hoped that he would think, okay, well, I'm actually like, I'm not just hanging with these guys just to have fun. I'm doing all these things that I'm not supposed to be doing. I should be a bit more careful. You almost kind of want to like warn him, like, no stop, don't do this because you know, if something happens, you're the one that's going to take the fall for it. Look at you and look at these two and see the difference. But you know, it doesn't really necessarily happen that way. And I think that , um, the book ending on that kind of, you don't really know what the consequence that happens to them, I think is very intentional. Um, and I think it also does a great job of like setting you up to kind of want to read the next one to kind of find out like, you know, what happens if they touch on that? Um, but yeah, I think it's very powerful.

Heather:

I have a question for you guys about TJ. So before the robbery that goes horribly wrong happens, TJ brings Melvin and RW around to say like, these are my buddies and they get me anything I want. And they're there to sort of like back that up and be like, yeah. Okay, sure, whatever. And then TJ says, even that pistol that I wanted at he Barrett store and no one really cares, like at that point, TJ has been cut off, you know, he has been excommunicated from, from their circle. So they don't really react. TJ's reaction to that perplexed me somewhat because I don't know that I quite understood what he was hoping that would accomplish because she then says that like TJ was like dejected and he says something like, it didn't even matter to them. What was he hoping for in that moment? Was he thinking that if he said, Hey, these guys will even get me that gun, that then he'd be somehow accepted back into the fold because he was so cool. Or I don't know. I couldn't, I couldn't really understand what was going through TJ's head had in that moment and what he was trying to accomplish.

Hawa:

I mean, I feel like TJ was definitely trying to fill a void with hanging out with those guys and maybe almost in a way maybe he subconsciously knew that he shouldn't have been hanging out with them and was hoping that maybe if he, he goes back to his old friends and is like, Hey, look at these new friends that I've got, they can even do all this for me that maybe that, that they'll kind of like, take him back in, you know, maybe they'll be like, oh my God, you're so cool. And we're really missing out on you. And, you know, in his mind that could have possibly been what he was thinking that might've been a reach, but, you know, I think that he was really trying to fill a void with hanging out with those two instead. And I think that , um, had they not cut off, been cut off from each other, I don't necessarily think that he would've gone down that road of hanging out with them. And I also would hope that even if he had then , um, gone down that road, him and Stacey might've been cooler and maybe Stacey would have been like, no, like this is not something that you'd be doing as opposed to, I don't think Stacey definitely would have gone down that road as well with him.

Hannah:

I think he wanted them to be impressed, you know, maybe welcomed back. I mean, you just, I mean, just frustrating as TJ's behavior while that you kind of see like a kid who just wants to, he wants to belong, he wants people to think he's cool, you know, to, you know, to be, to be respected. I guess. I think he maybe thought that if he showed up with his friends, that it, whether or not they want them to take them back and if they would, he wanted them to be impressed by him.

Kelsey:

Yeah. And I think they all kind of like, I don't remember if they explicitly say it, but implicitly, like you shouldn't be hanging out with those Wallace boy . Well , they say like, don't go down to the store, but that's like the fact that it's forbidden kind of makes it cool in a way. And then also this idea that like, oh, like I , I got these cooler friends who have money and access to resources and power and they let me hang around with them. And now I'm going to get access to this like privilege and power to buy the gun. Like, isn't that cool? Wasn't it worth it that I kind of sold you out and ditched you for these guys? Cause , look, when I get back, like, I really think that like, he, he felt like, oh , they would be impressed by him. Like, you know, quote unquote, leveling himself up in this way. Or like getting this like higher status by being regarded by the Wallace boys.

Hawa:

So anybody have any final thoughts on this book? Um, I can go first if that helps. Honestly, I, I, I'm not a huge fan of rereading books to be honest, but this book is one that I will go back to time and time again. This is probably my third read of the book. Um , I read it about a year ago when the, when the final version , um , or the final of the series was coming out. And I think it just, if you give yourself time in between, it definitely like hits different each and every time there are things that I picked up on this last review that I didn't pick up on before. Um, and I hope that everybody gets a chance to read this book if you haven't already.

Kelsey:

Hear hear!

Heather:

Yeah. I'm glad I re-read it for this. Um, it was hard at times again, because it is, it's very bleak and you know, what's coming , um, you know, a tree grows in Brooklyn has a lot of sadness in it too, but ultimately the end people land on their feet. So you have that. So it's a good like, oh, I just want cry. And then I move on because things work out for Francie in the end, this one. Oh, it's just, it does, it ends so bleak that I think it's a hard one to revisit, but I think it's very worthwhile because it is it's really, really well - written.

Hannah:

Yeah. I'm really glad that we re-read this. I mean, I remember liking it, but you know, it was so long ago. And my memory, as I mentioned is so bad that it was really good to delve into it again, especially with adult eyes. I think there are a lot of things I just wasn't mature enough to really reflect on and understand , um , when I read it before.

Kelsey:

Agree. I don't have any, anything insightful that everyone else hasn't already said.

Heather:

Yes

Hawa:

I'm glad to hear that. We all, you know, we all enjoyed it. Is this a, is this, this isn't a first though. Cause you all, did you all enjoy the last book? I think

Heather:

So. I think everybody more or less enjoyed it. This one though, Kelsey's bumping her rating up to five stars now on Goodreads.

Kelsey:

Yeah. I've enjoyed this one the most so far. I think

Hawa:

It's so funny because right before I came in, I was looking at , um, Goodreads reviews of people that I'm friends with on Goodreads, just to see what they had to say about this book and everybody's thoughts pretty much along the lines of yours, Kelsey. Whereas like, you know, I read it as a kid and I enjoyed it as, or I read it before and I enjoyed it for my first read it. It had an impact, but rereading it makes me realize how well it's done.

Kelsey:

Yeah.

Hawa:

So if you haven't read it, check it out,

Kelsey:

Then read it again. Alright. Coming up we'll get an expert's take on an important aspect of this novel that is not often discussed, but first we'll pay some bills,

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Kelsey:

Thank you so much for joining me today for our Community Corner. Um, if you could, could you please introduce yourself?

Marsha:

Sure. My name is Marsha Quarles and I work at the South Bowie branch. Um, I've been working in a Prince George's County Memorial Library system now for going on, I guess it's about 36 years. So I've worked at about seven to eight branches in this system.

Kelsey:

Wow. That's a long time. So , um, can you tell me a little bit about your experience with , um, and your memories of the book, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry. So first Brit ,

Marsha:

So I first read, um , Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry back in the late nineties. And I remember reading the book and I couldn't put it down. And then at the very end, when it was over, I just, I was just left kind of numb because there was so many themes in so many, so much going on in the story, but it was, it, it had an impact on me.

Kelsey:

I know that you , um, shared that you've been reflecting on some of the experiences that Cassie and the other characters in the book experience and how there's a lot of comparisons you can draw to today. Can you talk a little bit about what you, what you notice and some of the longevity of some of the plot points in the book?

Marsha:

Sure. So Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry , um, from remembering correctly is from an old Negro spiritual and the spiritual pretty much goes like this, Roll of thunder, hear my cry one man, coming down the line, whip in hand to meet me down. And I was thinking about how , um , the Logan family and Mr. Morrison are trying to take a stand against the injustice against Blacks and whites by the whites doing , um, Jim Crow era and Mississippi. And I was also thinking that a lot of these injustices are just the same as they are today. There's still violence It's still lynchings there's still killings, and they come in different forms. Now they're not, u m, you know, by hitting, by a KU Klux Klan wearing masks , they're actually by, you know, occurring by police and in the form of police brutality. And you know , it's still happening today.

Kelsey:

Yeah, absolutely. Um, and you shared that you've also had some personal experiences that you while reading about Cassie , um, drew some connections too as well.

Marsha:

Yeah, I was thinking about when Cassie was at the market and she had to stand and she had to wait for an hour to be served and black people experienced that kind of , um , shopping while black as we call it, experiences. Um , quite a bit where , um, we're denied entrance to stores, we're refused service. Um, we get , um, hav- ethnic slurs thrown at us. Um, I remember going into the , um, I won't say the name of the store, but the store is a big name stove when it first came to the County and I wasn't so excited to go there. So we walked in a store and the minute I walked into a store, I started being followed and I don't use a, you know, out, have outbursts in stores, but I do remember turning to this person and just saying I'm not going to steal anything. And I walked out. And so I just kind of, you know, it resonated with me again when I thought about, you know, Cassie having to speak up for herself just to get service. And then what happened to her when she did get service. And so we're taught to restrain ourselves. U m, but sometimes it's hard to do so.

Kelsey:

So do you feel like , um, the book still has some relevance for children these days are they, they might draw a similar comparison, especially , um, you know, children of color who, who might be reading this book?

Marsha:

I think so, because as a, as a historical fiction, it does talk about , um, the south. It talks about how Blacks were treated, during the Jim Crow era. And I think children need to know this. I do like that. It is told from the perspective of Cassie who was, I believe, she's nine years old in a story. And so you hear it from a child's perspective. And I also liked the way the author continued the stories in several smaller books that , um, they're written in a way that children can really understand them. And they're very short stories, but they're very powerful and strong short stories. So , um, yes, I think it's definitely, they're definitely relevant for kids today. They're often on a lot of reading lists and , um , I often give out this story to parents who want their children to learn more about African - American history. This is one of my go-to books to give them.

Kelsey:

Um , is there anything that I didn't ask that you want to share?

Marsha:

Just, that , um, this book will resonate with you if you read it, it's a very difficult read. It is not an easy story to read. You will feel what Cassie and her brothers and her father, Mr. Morrison and her mom are feeling. Um, but it's okay to feel that way because I think we need, especially our children. They need to know, they need to know that it is not a good feeling. It wasn't, it wasn't fair. It wasn't nice. Um, and you can process the story with them and talk to them about it, you know, after you read it. And I also suggest if parents are really can read alongside , um , with their children, as they're reading the book, you can talk about some of the things that are happening , um , together. So I definitely recommend this book as a good read.

Kelsey:

Spoken like a true librarian. Well, thank you so much, Ms . Marsha for joining me today and for your excellent insights.

Marsha:

Thank you. You're welcome.

Hannah:

And now it's time for everyone's favorite segment in which I practice for my future career as a time travel agent, helping prepare travelers for life in different areas. It's time for the 1930s Price is Right. All right. So all of you are playing this game. Um, I'm going to start out by giving you some , um, to sort of place you in time, a little bit in terms of like how much buying power a dollar had in, you know, 1930s. Um, so I went and looked up, they have the Bureau of Labor Statistics, had a calculator where you could put in like an amount and then years and, you know, get equivalents. So in 1934, in which our book is set a dollar had about the same power as approximately $20 in 2021 money. Um, and in July, 1930, it's I couldn't get an exact year, but I figure it's, you know, better than nothing, the average starting wage for common labor was 43 cents per hour. I'm telling you this to give you a fighting chance, because if you'd asked me to like, guess the costs of these items might tell you, I would have no idea how to.

Kelsey:

Doesn't Uncle Hammer say that they make like a quarter a day on the farm when they're sharecropping?

Hannah:

Oh yeah, that's right.

Heather:

He does.

Kelsey:

So they make less than one hour of, u h, I'm assuming white laborer' wage.

Hannah:

Yeah. They, this didn't , uh , um, didn't specify from this like an average. So obviously it's, you know varied.

Heather:

Yeah, the 43 cents would be relatively and keeping with minimum wage now, but yes, that would be extraordinarily low for 25 cents a day

Hannah:

It is.

Heather:

Awful.

Hannah:

So I don't, I do not think that the characters in our book were making a 43 cents per hour as their, as their starting wage. Okay. So we're going to , uh, we're going to start with , um, with something, common that we all , uh, I'll either use regularly or know about , um , with milk. So , um, I'm going to ask all of you to , um, give me your best guess as to what a gallon of milk in , uh , you know, 1930s , uh, the United States would've cost. And , um, if we're going by Price is Right rules, you have to get as close as possible without going over in order to win. Okay. So, all right. Hawa, let's start with you. What is your best guess for what a gallon of milk would have cost?

Hawa:

34 cents

Heather:

That's expensive milk.

Hawa:

Okay. Um, Hmm. You know, you have a good point. Dang. I'll keep that in mind for the next question.

Kelsey:

B ut maybe milk was more expensive b ack t hen

Speaker 4:

It may have been because so many people were producing their own milk then still. Okay. But the milkman came around, right? I feel like it was like something like 5 cents or 10 cents.

Hannah:

Is that your final answer? [ inaudible ].

Heather:

Yes, five or ten cents is my final answer

Hannah:

Your final answers? Which one do you want to?

Heather:

That was very like how much could a banana cost, ten dollars! [laughter, inaudible].

Kelsey:

That's literally what I was thinking about.

Heather:

I'll go with the nickel , I guess. ].

Hannah:

All right. Kelsey?

Kelsey:

I think it cost 22 cents.

Hannah:

Okay. So it would have cost an average of 56 cents.

Heather:

Holy cow. Milk was expensive. Yeah I guess. I wonder if. That's more than 10 bucks a gallon!

Hawa:

But also a gallon is a lot of milk, but even still thinking about how it translates to now. That's definitely a lot.

Hannah:

Yeah. I wonder if that's like, because it was harder to

Heather:

Refrigerate it and transport

Hannah:

As opposed to having it delivered fresh by the milkmen. I don't know. That bears more research .

Heather:

Man, I was thinking like, oh, five and dime stores were a thing. So everything back then cost 5 cents or 10, including milk. I was incorrect.

Kelsey:

Well, I don't know. Just keep trying that strategy. It might work out for you.

Heather:

Yeah [laughter{

Hannah:

All right . So that first round goes.

Heather:

Hawa wins.

Speaker 3:

The first one goes to Hawa as she went, she chose 34 cents. Uh , which is the closest , uh, to 56 cents per gallon.

Hawa:

I was still pretty off though.

Hannah:

But you were I mean, I feel like , um, the clues I gave you about the, the buying power of a dollar and the average wage really like does not account for all of these other factors, like refrigeration and production. So maybe that was a little fair of me to choose that, but I was like milk, we have to talk about milk. Alright, moving on to , um, Kellogg's Corn Flakes and , uh , 1934, I was able to find , um, uh , exact price listed for 1934. Um, how much would uh, would you pay for a box of Kellogg's?

Kelsey:

Did this come in? Like, did it come in like a box? Like we like a box today. What did a box of cornflakes look like? I'm so curious.

Hannah:

I did not find that in my research. It said that it was eight, eight ounces only if that helps.

Heather:

That's a small box.

Hannah:

It is a small box.

Heather:

That's like much smaller than, that's like a Grape Nuts size box of cornflakes,

Hannah:

A personal sized cereal box

Heather:

What could it cost, ten cents! That's my final answer. 10 cents.

Hannah:

All right . 10 cents for Heather. Kelsey or Hawa, you wanna make a guess?

Hawa:

I went first last time.

Hannah:

OK, Kelsey.

Kelsey:

I think, if it's only eight ounces, that's like one serving or two servings of cereal.

Heather:

I t's like two bowls.

Kelsey:

I'm not going to spend more than like 7 cents on that. [ inaudible].

Hawa:

That's what I was gonna say! [laughter] 6. Cents!

Kelsey:

Wow, you're just going to pigeon-hole me right in there, huh?

Hawa:

-6 or 7 and I can't go over so I won't say 8.

Heather:

I'm waiting for somebody to get the Price is Right, $1, Bob, one dollar. That'd be a lot of money. So we're going to have to wait for not.

Kelsey:

That's like a horse or something

Hannah:

So eight ounces in 1934, according to the price listing, that would have cost 8 cents. So that round goes to Kelsey.

Kelsey:

You almost said eight cents.

:

I should have said 8 cents. It's ok.

Kelsey:

1 cent per ounce.

Hawa:

Well , that's a good way of thinking of it for the next question. I don't know what it is, but.

Hannah:

so, you know, I guess if you poured your expensive milk on your small box of c ornflakes, that would be a very expensive breakfast potentially.

Kelsey:

Yeah.

Hannah:

All right . So our fourth , um, this is another food item. I got sort of bogged down in researching food prices. There is one non food item that we're going to get to, but , um , before we get there, we have to talk about Campbell's Tomato Soup. Now. Um, I should say that this price that I found for 1934 is for three cans. So it's not just one can, but three cans of Campbell's Tomato Soup. So Hawa went first. And then Kelsey went first, so Heather, you're it,

Heather:

Man. I'm gonna just stick with 10 cents.[Laughter]

Hawa:

If it ain't broke, don't fix it

Heather:

I'm the person bidding $1 every time on contestants'. 10 cents.

Hannah:

All right . 10 cents for Heather. Um, who wants to, who wants to guess next?

Hawa:

I'll say 14 cents.

Hannah:

14 cents.

Kelsey:

This is the price for three cans.

Hannah:

Yes.

:

Okay.

Hannah:

Three, three cans .

Kelsey:

I'm going to say 20 cents.

Hawa:

That's a good one to 20 cents. Okay. So , um, the answer is exactly 20 cents .

Heather:

Wow. Nailed it. You win both showcases now.

Kelsey:

Wow. Do I get a boat yet?

Hannah:

Ooh, I should have priced boats. What could they cost? $10? How many times can we quote the same. Lucille Lucille Bluth quote. In the same episode,

Heather:

I'm feeling very much like when my friend Marshall was on Price is Right. And I made everyone get out of the dorm common room so I could watch him on Price is Right. And then he never got off of Contestant Row and I mercilessly teased him and now karma has returned and it's me. [laughter]

Hannah:

Okay. So our last , um, our last question is , um, so apparently in 1930, a very popular model of car was Ford model A and I will say that based on the different car prices that I looked at, this looks like it was a cheaper model. Like , uh , the , I mean, there's a range of prices for cars then like there is now , um, and this wasn't the most expensive , um , car, or maybe even the, you know , middle of the road pricing car. So what would you, what would you guess that one would pay for a 1930 Ford model A?

Heather:

You're saying this is not the, like middle of the road car. This is like the economy car. This is like the Corolla of the thirties.

Hannah:

Yeah, I think So. Like it was popular. Um, but it seemed to be far more affordable than , um, a lot of the other cars I looked at, I think I thought a couple average prices that were higher , um, than this than what this was priced as.

Kelsey:

It's today's Ford focus.

Hannah:

Yeah. I think a Ford Focus or a Corolla is a good analogy.

Kelsey:

I'm just wanting to keep it in the Ford family.

Hawa:

I'm g onna say 304 dollars.

Hannah:

304 dollars.

Kelsey:

It feels better when you make it like not a rounded five or zero.

Hawa:

Oh, for sure.

Hannah:

I think that's a strategy in the game. Right? I've never really watched it that much, but that's the impression I got.

Heather:

Yeah, I think it is .Um , I have no bidding strategy on this , um ,

Kelsey:

Five or 10 cents.

Heather:

All right . We'll go with $500 and 10 cents.

Kelsey:

Wow. Hawa, what did you say

Hawa:

Since $304?

Kelsey:

Okay. I'm going to say, 3 75.

Heather:

I feel like I might've low-balled this even still cause a dollar was like $20 for us. Were cars this cheap back then?

Kelsey:

I just can't imagine someone having like a thousand dollars

Heather:

I'm gonna stick with $500 because that was the highest bid. So even if it turns out to be a million dollars, I would win this one

Hawa:

It's the 10 cents for me , [inaudible, laughter ] Very consistent.

Hannah:

Okay. So it would have cost a 1930 Ford Model A $435.

Heather:

No, I went over!

Hannah:

So that one goes to, that one goes to Kelsey too.

Kelsey:

Wow, I should audition.

Hawa:

What was your guess? 375? [inaudible] You only guessed $375 because I said $304. Almost said 500 and something to those . So yeah.

Hannah:

It's so hard. Like, you know, how do you guess that? Like it's, I mean, and car culture was relatively new then. So with there's just very little reference.

Heather:

Well, I guess there was less going on with cars back then too. Like maybe cars cost so much now because there's safety features, right .

Kelsey:

And there being computers.

Heather:

Computers built in and

Kelsey:

Yeah. And I feel like the cost has to be like somewhere close to the cost of a horse and buggy, right. It can't be like wildly more expensive. Otherwise who would buy it?

Hannah:

Make them more affordable to convince them, to buy it. And now that we all need them, we pay whatever we have to.

Hawa:

And that's literally w hat I was thinking. Like they know you're like, well, yeah, I'm going to tell you this car $20,000, but if you need it, you won't get it. So.

Heather:

I wish I could have a horse and buggy instead of a car . Now that you bring that up.

Kelsey:

Oh My God. All the poop you'd have to deal with.

Heather:

T hat's fine.

Hawa:

All right . So that was fun. Thank you for that game. All right . So each episode we ask, whether our book passes the Bechdel test, the Bechdel test asks whether a work features two female characters who talk to each other about something that doesn't involve men or boys. So does Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry pass? The Bechdel test?

Heather:

I think it does, but barely

Kelsey:

This is definitely the closest one to date. I think

Heather:

There are a couple of conversations, Mama and Ms. Crocker about the books, which I don't technically think has anything to do with men. I mean, in passing Little Man is brought up because he stomped on the book. But when they're talking about the bigger issue of defacing the books, I don't think they're talking about guys . And then there's a couple of like maybe some kitchen conversations that happened that there's at least two lines of dialogue where a man doesn't come up.

Hannah:

and it's hard, cuz I mean, because Cassie spends the most time with her brothers and you know, she's the only girl, so she's mostly talking to them. So she can't pass in those situations.

Hawa:

I think another thing that makes it so hard is that, u m, a lot of what goes on in the book, like a lot of the major events, like the violence that takes place happens to, or about the mental, even when the women are talking, y ou're talking about, you know, what's going on to these men. So in that sense, it is kind of hard, especially b ecause so many of the characters in the book, even if they're not necessarily main characters are male.

Hannah:

That's a good point.

Kelsey:

Yeah. I think it does pass though. It's just lucky that this test is a very low bar.

Hawa:

Yeah. [laughter[

Heather:

Cause I was thinking maybe her conversations with Lillian , but Lillian's talking about our crush , so I'm not even sure. And that's,

Kelsey:

And I guess when she tells Lillian off at the end, that's about her. That's true. All the events leading up.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. All right . Well, that's it for this episode of These Books Made Me. Join us next time when we'll discuss a book in which a girl with two looped braids comes to America, if you think you know which book we're tackling next, drop us a tweet. We're at PGCMLS on Twitter and #TheseBooksMadeMe