But first, the review.
SEEING RED is a disturbing book. There is the abusive neighbor and I've lived long enough to know he exists. There is the religious bigot and oh, yeah, I've met that one too. And then there is Red Porter, who in the midst of grief, does some things that go against his gentle nature.
From Page 2 I walked up the stairs in the back where Daddy had his office, taking in a deep breath of everything I loved. The shop was oil and gas and paint and dirt. It was brake pads, hoses, filters, and about any kind of tool you'd ever need to fix a car or truck. It was Lava soap, old rags, and a sink with a faucet you could turn on with just your elbow. It was the last place I saw Daddy.
|I relate to the above quote from the book. This was my Grandpop's shop/gas station in Plumsteadville, PA. The smell of tires, oil, and gas will always remind me of someone I loved.|
The property Mama wants to sell (house, store and car repair shop) border the property of the abusive/racist neighbor and tangled up in the mix is some vague history Red has heard about his family's property, the abusive Dunlop's property and an African-American church. There's also some dispute over the property boundaries and the belief that more than one hundred years ago a Dunlop ancestor killed the black pastor of the church.
SEEING RED is truly readable. It's underlined with mystery, filled with action, and populated with rich and complicated relationships. And it doesn't hurt that Kathryn Erskine writes tough subjects with gently placed humor. There's some collective soul searching to explore here and fortunately, Scholastic has created a Common Core Discussion Guide designed for Grades 5 -9. .
The story is set in 1972 so, of course, America is going through a huge cultural shift.The most disturbing elements of SEEING RED have to do with racial relationships. In the Author Note, Erskine shares her passion for racial justice. As a child, she lived for awhile in South Africa surrounded by injustice and racial tension. Later she came to America and realized the painful truth that apartheid exists here too. As her mother explained it - "...we just don't call it that."
Please check back this week, because I've snagged an interview with Kathy. I might even go into a blogging frenzy and post 2 days in a row!
Here's the United Kingdom cover for SEEING RED. Personally, I'm crazy about it!