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We Troubled the Waters

by Ntozake Shange
Illustrated by Rod Brown

Published by Amistad / Collins / HarperCollins, 2009
32 pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-133735-2

Age 13 and older

Stirring poems and paintings comprise an emotional volume focused on African American experience in the south in the mid-twentieth century. There are a few famous people here—Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X—but it is the lives and dreams, challenges and indignities faced by subjects without names or familiar faces that are most affecting. A “Cleaning Gal” can’t afford to rest or quit, so continues “scrubbin & scrubbin what aint mine.” Hungry “Garbage Boys” collect other people’s trash and “never understand / how folks throw way what’s still good to eat.” In “Crying Trees” poet Ntozake Shange asks, “how can our boys be some decorations in the forest / never to kiss good night again,” while artist Rod Brown’s accompanying painting shows young men hanging noosed and lifeless from trees. Shange and Brown confront a past that is disturbing but also inspiring in both the courage and strength of individuals known and nameless and in transcendent moments of the Civil Rights Movement. CCBC Categories: Poetry  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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