By Elizabeth Wroten
Review: The Silence of Our Friends
On 20, Mar 2013 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten
This semi-autobiographical tale is set in 1967 Texas, against the backdrop of the fight for civil rights. A white family from a notoriously racist neighborhood in the suburbs and a black family from its poorest ward cross Houston’s color line, overcoming humiliation, degradation, and violence to win the freedom of five black college students unjustly charged with the murder of a policeman.
For some reason the Civil Rights Movement is really popular right now, which has meant that a lot of quality fiction and nonfiction is being published in the YA arena. I find the time period very interesting largely because the sentiments of the era are so foreign to me despite it being very recent history and because I know a segregated and racist world is the world my parents grew up in. I’m a little older than the intended audience for these books, but I wouldn’t be surprised if young adults had parents and aunts and uncles who were around both during the Civil Rights Movement and even before, giving them a close connection to the events.
The best thing about The Silence of Our Friends is that it gives a little slice of the story of the Civil Rights Movement. So many of the fantastic books that have been published on the subject lately are nonfiction books about more sweeping portions of the movement. This humanized those nonfiction books in a very different way than the anecdotes nonfiction tends to contain. The choice to have the book in black and white was also smart. Not only did it highlight the racial tension, but it also allowed the book to feel very dark in appropriate places.