Colorblind by Leah Harper Bowron
Historical fiction is actually my favorite genre so when I was asked to be sent 'Colorblind' for review, I was quite excited. I read the synopsis and thought what a fantastic story about an African American teacher who was integrated to an all white school in the 60s and her relationship with a white student, at the height of segregation. What I found was extremely juvenile writing for a story that could've had a far greater emotional reach.
The time is 1968. The place is Montgomery, Alabama. The story is one of resilience in the face of discrimination and bullying. Using the racially charged word "Negro," two Caucasian boys repeatedly bully Miss Annie Loomis--the first African-American teacher at the all-white Wyatt Elementary School. At the same time, using the hateful word "harelip," the boys repeatedly bully Miss Loomis's eleven-year-old Caucasian student, Lisa Parker, who was born with cleft palate and cleft lip. Who will best the bullies? Only Lisa's mood ring knows for sure.
This story was extremely short, yet I was hoping it would still make more of an impact considering its topic. I had to research to figure out if in fact this book was written for grade school students. As an adult reader I am looking for a specific writing style. If I had to describe the writing in this book, it is comparable to "See Jane run." At first I thought maybe it was written from the POV of the main character who is a sixth grader, but once I completed the story and realized the entire book was written that way, I was extremely disappointed.
I thought that this story would be centered more around the experiences of Miss Loomis and African American teacher who was bussed to Wyatt, an all-"white" elementary school, to teach during a time when there was an extremely openly racist atmosphere. I suppose the way in which this story is constructed is that they both are facing some sort of discrimination. Miss Loomis because she is a black woman and Lisa Parker because she has a physical imperfection although she is caucasian. They both experience extreme bullying at the hands of others. However, Lisa being caucasian still has privileges that Miss Loomis does not.
She was Lisa's favorite teacher and Lisa was trying to learn why racism existed; why people, other human beings, were treated a certain way both through the guise of a racist mother and a timid African American teacher. I wanted to know more about Miss Loomis and for a greater part of the story she seemed to be non existent. Although Lisa and Miss Loomis were bullied by the same two caucasian students, the focus of the bullying was on Lisa. Bullying under any circumstance is inexcusable. However, the cruelty and life threatening affects of racism most certainly has a different impact.
For example, the part where there was an event at the school and all of the teacher's entered cakes they baked and Miss Loomis' cake was thrown away because it was seen as "unsanitary". I didn't like the idea that Lisa decided to pick on someone else to deflect the bullying away from her. Although her plan backfired it was still a weak attempt to push the bullying theme of this story. I liked that she finally put on her super-girl cape and stood up to the two boys at the end. I also like Mr. Parker, Lisa's father. He spoke out against injustice and was alienated by other "whites" in the community because he defended African Americans. There was a kindness about him that he tried to instill in Lisa.
I struggled with finding the actual plot to this story. The cover is gorgeous, but unfortunately that's where it ends for me.
My rating: 2/5