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Sources of Light

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Overview

It's 1962, a year after the death of Sam's father—he was a war hero—and Sam and her mother must move, along with their very liberal views, to Jackson, Mississippi, her father's conservative hometown. Needless to say, they don't quite fit in.
    People like the McLemores fear that Sam, her mother, and her mother's artist friend, Perry, are in the South to "agitate" and to shake up the dividing lines between black and white and blur it all to grey. ...

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Sources of Light

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Overview

It's 1962, a year after the death of Sam's father—he was a war hero—and Sam and her mother must move, along with their very liberal views, to Jackson, Mississippi, her father's conservative hometown. Needless to say, they don't quite fit in.
    People like the McLemores fear that Sam, her mother, and her mother's artist friend, Perry, are in the South to "agitate" and to shake up the dividing lines between black and white and blur it all to grey. As racial injustices ensue—sit-ins and run-ins with secret white supremacists—Sam learns to focus with her camera lens to bring forth the social injustice out of the darkness and into the light.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This historical novel set in 1962 Mississippi spotlights the tensions of the early civil rights movement through the evolution of 14-year-old Sam, a former army brat transplanted to her recently deceased father's home state when her mother accepts a teaching job at the local college. McMullan (Cashay) effectively captures the Southern setting and frames Sam's conflict between belonging and doing the right thing in the face of racial prejudice. “I just wanted to fit into this place just as we had fit in to all the other towns we had lived in... do whatever it was we were supposed to do, let whatever was supposed to happen happen.” Sam's pivotal relationships with her family's maid, feisty grandmother, and love interest, Stone, whose family staunchly advocates white supremacy, force her to define her own beliefs. And her interest in photography, inspired by her mother's activist boyfriend, helps her focus on this society in transition, as she documents lunch counter protests and develops shocking film after a murder. It's a high stakes novel that powerfully portrays the bravery and loss of a tumultuous time. Ages 10–up. (Apr.)
Publishers Weekly
This historical novel set in 1962 Mississippi spotlights the tensions of the early civil rights movement through the evolution of 14-year-old Sam, a former army brat transplanted to her recently deceased father's home state when her mother accepts a teaching job at the local college. McMullan (Cashay) effectively captures the Southern setting and frames Sam's conflict between belonging and doing the right thing in the face of racial prejudice. “I just wanted to fit into this place just as we had fit in to all the other towns we had lived in... do whatever it was we were supposed to do, let whatever was supposed to happen happen.” Sam's pivotal relationships with her family's maid, feisty grandmother, and love interest, Stone, whose family staunchly advocates white supremacy, force her to define her own beliefs. And her interest in photography, inspired by her mother's activist boyfriend, helps her focus on this society in transition, as she documents lunch counter protests and develops shocking film after a murder. It's a high stakes novel that powerfully portrays the bravery and loss of a tumultuous time. Ages 10–up. (Apr.)
VOYA - Judy Brink-Drescher
The year 1962 proves to be very turbulent for fourteen-year-old Samantha Thomas. It was only a year earlier that her father died in Vietnam, and now, because her mother has taken a teaching position at a college in Jackson, Mississippi, she has to move across the country. Once there, Sam becomes immediately aware of the vast cultural differences between the North and the South; whereas she only wants to fit in, her mom seems intent upon ruffling feathers. The situation deteriorates when her mother begins seeing Perry, a colleague and freelance photographer who has very liberal, "Yankee" views on the war, segregation, and a "colored's" right to vote. For a school project, Perry gives Sam a camera, and as she becomes more enamored with it, she also inadvertently finds herself in the midst of an escalating racial conflict over civil rights. Many events from this engaging story are drawn from McMullan's own childhood in the Deep South during the tumultuous 1960s. Although the first fifty pages or so of the story are a little slow, the complexity of the story line eventually reveals itself and makes for one terrific read. This book will most likely be embraced by girls who like to read and are willing to wait for the tale to unfold. As for the older set, the story has a familiar To Kill a Mockingbird (Lippincott, 1960) feel about it and will evoke many fond memories from that time period. Reviewer: Judy Brink-Drescher
Children's Literature - Danielle Williams
There is a type of magic in taking a photograph. Samantha never truly understood this fact until the summer that she moved to Jackson, Mississippi, with her mother. Although her father's family lived there and she has certainly spent enough time in Mississippi to be familiar with the area customs, in 1962 everything is changing. Sam is never comfortable expressing herself, but her mother's new beau, Perry, gives Samantha a camera and coaches her on how to see the world through its lens. Sam learns to distance herself from events and see them in a different light, bringing the event into sharp focus and exposing actions and feelings in a way that has never been noticed. In this story that is set at the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi, Sam is caught up in changing ideology and the violence that comes with social change. Despite the violent situations that arise around Sam, her ability to distance herself from the situation and capture everything through her camera enables her to document events as an outsider even as she is caught up in them. Reviewer: Danielle Williams
School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—With the camera that her mother's colleague gives her, 14-year-old Samantha records a portrait of life in Mississippi during the year 1962–1963. Perry teaches her how to use it and in many ways how to see. He also sets a powerful example through his activism and determination to do the right thing. Sam begins her freshman year somewhat unaware of the racial tensions that exist around her. By the end of the school year though, she becomes acutely aware of the situation, and she and her mother are directly impacted by those struggles. Sam's personal life has its own pressures as she and her mother cope with the loss of her father in Vietnam the previous year, Perry and her mom grow closer, and Sam meets a boy who seems to be at odds with her views on racial equality. McMullan's characters are authentic to the time and place. The themes come through naturally, as do the imagery and symbolism of the camera. Like many novels that have civil rights at the center of them, this is not an easy read, but it is worth the effort. McMullan's well-chosen words realistically portray the conflicts that Sam, her mother, and those around them face. The truths the teen learns are timeless, allowing readers to identify with her. Make room on your library shelves for this one.—Hilary Writt, Sullivan University, Lexington, KY
Kirkus Reviews
When 14-year-old Samantha Thomas moves to Jackson, Miss., in 1962, following her father's death in Vietnam, she learns about love and hate all in the same year. Her mother meets Perry Walker, a photographer who teaches Sam about taking photographs and seeing the world in new ways, but what she begins seeing and pondering is the racial situation in Jackson-lunch-counter sit-ins, voter-registration protests and the violent reprisals of many in the white community, including the father of the boy she begins to like. Though this fine volume easily stands by itself, McMullan links it with two previous works-How I Found the Strong (2004) and When I Crossed No-Bob (2007)-and readers who read the first installments will feel that they are in the midst of an excellent historical saga. A pivotal scene in the Petrified Forest relies too much on coincidence and an improbable sequence of events, but overall this offers a superb portrait of a place and time and a memorable character trying to make sense of a world both ugly and beautiful. (author's note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)
From the Publisher
"Like many novels that have civil rights at the center of them, this is not an easy read, but it is worth the effort. McMullan’s well-chosen words realistically portray the conflicts that Sam, her mother, and those around them face. The truths the teen learns are timeless, allowing readers to identify with her. Make room on your library shelves for this one."—School Library Journal, starred review

"When 14-year-old Samantha Thomas moves to Jackson, Miss., in 1962, following her father’s death in Vietnam, she learns about love and hate all in the same year...Though this fine volume easily stands by itself, McMullan links it with two previous works—How I Found the Strong (2004) and When I Crossed No-Bob (2007)—and readers who read the first installments will feel that they are in the midst of an excellent historical saga."—Kirkus

"This historical novel set in 1962 Mississippi spotlights the tensions of the early civil rights movement through the evolution of 14-year-old Sam, a former army brat transplanted to her recently deceased father's home state when her mother accepts a teaching job at the local college. McMullan (Cashay) effectively captures the Southern setting and frames Sam's conflict between belonging and doing the right thing in the face of racial prejudice...It's a high stakes novel that powerfully portrays the bravery and loss of a tumultuous time."—Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547076591
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 4/12/2010
  • Pages: 233
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 840L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Margaret McMullan

Margaret McMullan is the acclaimed author of When I Crossed No-Bob and How I Found the Strong , as well as the adult novels In My Mother’s House and When Warhol Was Still Alive . Her work has appeared in such publications as Glamour, the Chicago Tribune, and Michigan Quarterly Review. She is a professor and the chair of the English department at the University of Evansville in Indiana.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 7, 2010

    I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes a good historical, tear-jerking story about the fight against what is right and what is wrong.-great book written by, Margaret McMullan.

    If you could hide behind a camera, would you? That's what 14 year-old Samantha Thomas did when she moved to her deceased fathers neighborhood in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962. Her mother's new boyfriend, Perry, teaches Sam how to use a variety of cameras. She uses the camera(s) like a hawks eye, catching glimpses of the dangerous boy she has a crush on and gets pictures of riots between the blacks and the whites. For example, when Sam sees a beautiful black woman having ketchup poured all over her head and getting screamed at by white people she snaps pictures of the scenario and later puts them on public display.
    After weeks pass, the story builds in suspense of whose side the McLemores are on, while, Perry, Willa Mae (Sam's nice but silent maid), Sam's mother and Sam's relationships grow. Read and capture the true meaning of how seeing is believing.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2013

    Amazing book

    This is an amazing book. It is a wonderful story of a teen who found her self with a great joy of picture taking.
    Samantha wasnt so sure at first,but she then realized that all pictures told a story, that pictures are what people use as proof for things important in history, and things that are inportant in upcoming events.
    A thrilling book giving a perspective of what it would be like to live back in the 1860's and about the things that had happened to so many innocent people.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2013

    Wht is this book rlly about i only read the sample

    Its pretty good though uts awesome i luv ut

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2013

    To love

    You can write me back whenever you get the chance...

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews

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