GLORY BE takes place during the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi, which is still segregated, though changes are taking place. The Civil Rights Act has just passed, and a new group called Freedom Workers has come to the small town of Hanging Moss to help Negroes deal with their new freedoms, such as the right to vote.
Gloriana (Glory) June Hemphill is the 11-year-old daughter of Brother Joe, the preacher at the First Fellowship United Church in Hanging Moss. It’s summertime, and Glory is looking forward to spending the next few months cooling off in the pool during the hot days, like she has every year since she can remember. It’s nearing the end of June and Glory’s birthday is July 4th. She always has a party at the pool to celebrate, but that won’t happen this year. Apparently it’s being closed for repairs, but Glory knows better. She has heard that the pool is being shut down to keep out the “coloreds” as the City Council doesn’t want to share it with the blacks in town. They’re worried about the laws to desegregate as they don’t want things to change in their little town.
Laura Lampert is from Ohio. She has come to Hanging Moss with her mom, a nurse who has been sent to Mississippi to work at the Freedom Clinic where she will help patients who don’t have their own doctor or nurse. Glory and Laura become friends, which creates trouble for Glory. Glory has grown up with the idea that the two races should be segregated and never gave much thought to what that meant until things started changing. Once they did, she realized that the changes were long overdue. But she is caught in the middle of the struggle as her best friend, Frankie, doesn’t want her hanging around with a “Yankee” who is an outsider. Glory is torn between her loyalties to both sides of the issue.
Author Augusta Scattergood tells the story from Glory’s point of view. This is very effective in conveying the thoughts, feelings and emotions of this young girl who is living in such volatile times. Readers, like myself, can easily identify with Glory. GLORY BE is Scattergood’s debut novel, though she is no stranger to the writing and publishing world. She is a former librarian and children’s book reviewer who has “devoted her life and career to getting books into the hands of young readers.” If this first effort is any indication, the literary world will be blessed with more books by this talented writer.
Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin on January 1, 2012