My Mother the Cheerleader

by Robert Sharenow

 

This was written by the author of The Berlin Boxing Club and I liked this one quite a bit better.

Louise is a 13 year old girl growing up in New Orleans during the time of desegregation. Her mother is one of the “Cheerleaders,” the women who show up to school every morning to hurl insults, threats, and rotten food at Ruby Bridges as she enters the school.

I liked that the story was told from a different point of view than you would expect. Instead of someone who supported Civil Rights overcoming, you had a girl who takes for granted that integration is wrong. Her assumptions are challenged when a man comes to stay at her mother’s inn who believes that Ruby Bridges is the most courageous person he has ever seen.

Louise grows into a person who is willing to ask questions and attempt to make courageous decisions. I liked her a lot and I read this book in half the time as The Berlin Boxing Club. Louise says at one point that she likes Steinbeck because he creates characters that are so real that Louise can then see the humanity in the people in her life. I think Sharenow does a similar thing- he gives some humanity to the horrible people behind The Cheerleaders without making what they are doing right. It’s clear that their behavior is beyond abominable, but we start to understand Louise’s mother more as her story slowly unfolds.

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