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Summary: Bayard Rustin did not lead his life to become a household name. He chose to model and teach others about being an "angelic troublemaker." Rustin's deep belief in equality for all and effecting change came from his Quaker grandmother and his travel to India and work to better understand nonviolent resistance. Year's before the Civil Rights Movement began, he was demonstrating his skills as someone who could effect change. Because of this, leaders within the Civil Rights Movement sought his counsel, and for many years he was part of the leadership's inner circle. Then, as a result of events in Bayard's life related to his homosexuality, organizations began to distance themselves from Bayard. In this biography for teens and young adults, we learn more about Bayard Rustin and his unending efforts to bring equality to all.
Type of Reading: independent reading
Recommended Age: read together: 12 and up; read yourself: 14 and Up
Interest Level: 13 to 18
Young Reader Reaction: Review pending.
Adult Reader Reaction: Although the book describes events and attitudes of eras gone by, they are presented in a way that allows readers to connect them with the era in which they live. Rustin's is a fascinating and unique story. In learning about him, I learned a lot about the Quakers, the micro-politics of various organizations, and the social stigmas that impacted them. There were ideas I would not have associated with life in the 1930s, such as being raised by a grandparent (while a parent was still alive) or homosexuality. I also liked that there were lots of photographs. There were times when I found the sidebars "overpowered" Rustin's story and made it more textbook-ish. Overall, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to teens studying nonviolent resistance and/or the Civil Rights Movement.
Pros: Young readers will not only have a window into history, but can see their “own time” on issues such as acceptance and respect, homosexuality, and living your beliefs.
Cons: The last part of the book is disjointed and does not flow well with the rest of the book. Unfortunately, the cover is not designed for capturing a young reader's eye in a way that will have them pulling it from the shelf to read.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow. This is a worthwhile read that will add to your understanding of the Civil Rights Movement.
Educational Themes: Because the biography spans the 1930s through the 1970s, there is a lot of history packed inside. The story is laid out in such a way that you can isolate specific themes and how they changed over time: education (e.g., college, purpose, accessibility); religious norms; cultural norms (e.g., being raised by a grandparent); homosexuality; and law and law enforcement (e.g., laws added, laws repealed). Bayard traveled to India and also all over the United States that open opportunities for additional study: how did one travel to India in the 1930s and 1940s? What were the routes (and how long did it take) to get from city to city during the height of the Civil Rights Movement?