Friday, May 16, 2014

A Tugging String by David T. Greenberg

A recent gift from my future mother & father-in-law was a signed copy of A Tugging String by David T. Greenberg, son of Jack Greenberg (former director of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund). A Tugging String is a nonfiction novel set during the Civil Right Movement, specifically during the 1960s and the years leading up to the Selma-Montgomery Voting Rights March of 1965. 

What a great resource this book would be in a classroom (late elementary into middle school) where the Civil Rights Movement was being studied!  Author David T. Greenberg's very accessible and autobiographical account of his childhood as the son of a leading attorney for prominent Civil Rights' leaders gives readers a riveting front row seat to history being made.  A Tugging String contains facts.  But A Tugging String also contains the raw storytelling that comes from someone who stood as witness to the events of that volatile time. 

Having a deep and abiding interest in the Civil Rights Movement, I found Greenberg's novel an important read, especially considering the recent Supreme Court case of Shelby County vs. Holder and the ruling where "the coverage formula in Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), which was used to determine the states and political subdivisions subject to Section 5 preclearance, was unconstitutional."

We have a lot to think about as a nation right now.  Discrimination comes in many guises.  We have to be vigilant and, as Greenburg says in Tugging, we have to "do what's right."

Near the end of the novel, David's father shares with him the poem If by Rudyard Kipling.  Outside of rope skipping rhymes and Roberta Flack song lyrics, this particular poem is the first poem that I ever memorized as a youngster.  Sadly, I can no longer recite it on command.  But it is a beautiful poem, full of meaning.

If by Rudyard Kipling

(‘Brother Square-Toes’—Rewards and Fairies)
If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!