The Darkest Corner

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Overview

Teddy has her first inkling that something is awry in her small Mississippi town when she witnesses a cross-burning from her attic window. Soon after, she starts hearing about a group called the Ku Klux Klan. Then Teddy discovers that her father, the bank president, is a Klansman and that he participated in the lynching of a black man who is the father of Teddy's best friend, Stella. Teddy loves her father, but she hates what he has done. Along with Stella, she joins in a protest march and organizes a "sit-in" at...

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Overview

Teddy has her first inkling that something is awry in her small Mississippi town when she witnesses a cross-burning from her attic window. Soon after, she starts hearing about a group called the Ku Klux Klan. Then Teddy discovers that her father, the bank president, is a Klansman and that he participated in the lynching of a black man who is the father of Teddy's best friend, Stella. Teddy loves her father, but she hates what he has done. Along with Stella, she joins in a protest march and organizes a "sit-in" at the local drugstore, where only white people are allowed to sit on the stools. Furious, Teddy's father sends her to stay with her aunt in New York City. Teddy returns home to find that her parents are separating. As Teddy's social consciousness emerges over the next five years, while she witnesses the events of the civil rights movement, she and her mother help each other learn to speak out against racism and injustice.

Her loving relationship with the black woman who works for her family and her friendship with two black neighbors in the small Mississippi town where she grows up in the 1950s and 1960s brings Teddy into conflict with her racist father, a member of the local Ku Klux Klan.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The Civil Rights movement makes its way to small-town Mississippi in this well-researched but ultimately disappointing novel, Herschler's first for young adults. Teddy, the narrator, is nine when she stumbles upon the lynching of her best friend's father: "He was swinging back and forth as if a wind had caught him, and there stood my daddy, my very own daddy, clothed in a bedsheet near a bunch of other men, watching him swing." The aftermath is briefly documented, and the narrative skips ahead ("Time flew, and the memory settled deep down in my heart a memory that never lost its pain, never lost its spurt of guilt, never lost its power over me") to other seminal moments in Teddy's coming of age. Against her father's orders, Teddy gets progressively more involved in the Civil Rights struggle, leading up to the summer of the Freedom Riders. Tensions multiply and violence in Teddy's community escalates, but Herschler never quite manages to create an immediate sense of menace, even when describing Klan attacks. Teddy, seen over a period of five years, doesn't seem to change much. This sometimes poignant portrayal of a friendship that survives through turbulent times is overshadowed by the historical background, which takes in such events as Eldridge Cleaver's assassination, lunch counter sit-ins and the Selma-Montgomery Freedom March. These historical milestones ultimately remain more compelling than the story line. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Teddy loves words like catapult and tumultuous, especially the way they sound and roll on her tongue. But the rhythm of words, and the elephants that sometimes march in her head, can't erase the memories of one sizzling summer in a once-sleepy Mississippi town. At age nine, Teddy not only witnesses the lynching of her best friend's father, but she is also horrified to discover her own father's participation as a Klan member. During the next five years she grows increasingly steadfast in her beliefs about right and wrong, feeling like "a wingless bird on a long and lonely limb." Teddy's stand against her racist father, and her close relationship with Lizzie, the wise and protective black family cook, make this novel reminiscent of Bette Greene's acclaimed Summer of My German Soldier. Readers may question the reality of a young 1960s southern girl's capacity to defy family-taught prejudices and to sacrifice all her white friendships, but it's still a profoundly moving portrayal, sure to resonate with anyone who's ever felt torn by his/her own resolve to do what's right. Herschler's prose is, by turns, effectively poetic, spare, and inventive. 2000, Front Street, $16.95. Ages 11 up. Reviewer: Betty Hicks
VOYA
Teddy's best friend is Stella. Stella is fun to laugh and pick flowers with, and she can see straight into Teddy's heart. That is all that matters to Teddy. She does not care much that Stella is black. At the age of nine, Teddy Sanders discovers that her father is a member of the Ku Klux Klan. She sees a burning cross and goes to investigate, only to find her father, robed in white, standing in front of the dangling body of Stella's dad. As unrest grows in the South in the '60s, so does Teddy's racial conscience. Much to her father's dismay, she becomes actively involved in the Civil Rights movement, causing tension to the point of fear in her home life. From the first chapter of the book, the reader is riveted. Teddy is an intelligent, spunky character who questions everything and who listens only to her heart. The isolation that she feels from her white family and schoolmates when she is branded as a "nigger-lover," coupled with the tension that isolation instills in her relationship with Stella, create a setting of Teddy versus the world that anyone can identify with. With wide appeal to the teen audience, this solid book might be used in conjunction with discussions of the Civil Rights era or in book discussion groups. Its intriguing cover will sell the book, and readers will find a good, old-fashioned read within. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2000, Front Street, 240p. Ages 12 to 15. Reviewer: Erin Pierce VOYA, February 2001 (Vol. 23, No.6)
School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-In the early 1960s, Theodora Sanders, a white girl from a small town in Mississippi, finds her "town is in an uproar, ain't nobody safe." Teddy's world is held together by her loving relationship with Lizzie, the family housekeeper, but that world begins to shatter after she views a cross burning and then sees her best friend's father hanging from a tree. As African Americans become more forceful in their push for equality, Teddy's family relationships and her parents' marriage become increasingly strained. Her father, the president of the local bank and a respected pillar of the community, is a vociferous reactionary and member of the Klan. Ostracized by her white peers, the girl is drawn closer to her black friends Stella and Tommy and joins in Civil Rights protests. Teddy's is a strong and eloquent voice that filters the bitter, tumultuous divisions of the period through the confusion of adolescence. However, while the depth of the author's extensive historical research is readily apparent, the overly eventful plot leaves important issues unresolved. Stella's father's lynching, her mother's rape, the brutal beating of Tommy and of Lizzie's two sons, and Teddy's father's threatening nocturnal visits to her occur as isolated episodes without significant consequences. While this briskly paced story provides a panoramic view of the Civil Rights Movement, its broad sweep comes at the expense of plot and character development.-Patricia B. McGee, Tennessee Technological University, Cookeville Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781886910546
  • Publisher: Highlights Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/2000
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 224
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Mildred Barger Herschler, a native of West Virginia, was a reporter on one of her hometown daily newspapers before she attended Bethany College, majoring in journalism. She has lived on Long Island and in New York City, where she was the editor of a weekly magazine for marketing executives and a freelance writer for periodicals before moving to the South. Her poetry has appeared in The Crisis, she was a winner of the South Carolina Fiction Project in 1996 with her short story, Martin's Epiphany, and she was an artist-in-residence in October 1994 at the Millay Colony for the Arts. She is the author of a children's biography of Frederick Douglass and an historical novel, The Walk Into Morning, which received critical acclaim, including a starred review from Kirkus, which called it "A stormy, yet keenly focused, dramatically potent first novel." She lives in a border community in the foothills of western North and South Carolina. The Darkest Corner is her first young adult novel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2005

    Darkest Corner

    Burning Cross In a small town in Mississippi, there seems to be something ¿fishy¿ going down, ever since the progress of the Civil Rights Movement soon after came the White Knights. Teddy is a young white girl who just happens to be best friends with two black kids, Stella and Tommy. Teddy¿s father, rather quickly demands that she stops interacting with black people, ¿point-blank¿! Teddy knew her father believed in ¿White Supremacy¿, but she now wonders if her father is an active member in the Klu Klux Klan (KKK), an organization of which only white people can join and are openly racist of blacks, and any other race besides white. Teddy rebels against her parents wishes and becomes involved in the Civil Rights Movement with the blacks, by doing protests, sit-ins, and marches. Theodora (Teddy for short) is a young white girl motivated to do the right things, and refuses to give up until things are fixed. Teddy, unlike her mother, speaks out when there is wrong doing. Theodora and her father are constantly fighting and arguing about White Supremacy, and about his friends who are members in the KKK and constantly pressures him to join. Theodora is a sensitive, non-judgmental of color but instead on personality, and truly genuine. Stella is Theodora¿s best friend, who is black, and she helps Teddy through the hard times and makes Theodora keep holding on strong. Stella is a good person and doesn¿t hold a grudge, and very supportive. Tommy is another black friend of Teddy, he makes Theodora stop and think about what she is doing, and Tommy is always trying to protect Theodora. Theodora¿s Mom and Dad are always bossing her around and making her feel as if she is not a member in the family, by wanting her to be the ¿perfect daughter¿ and makes her feel depressed and insecure. Lizzie is the family life long maid who is like a real guardian angel to Theodora. Lizzie comforts Theodora and gives great advice. The plot in THE DARKEST CORNER is like water, it flows nice and smooth. The characters can be viewed as real people. The style Mildred Barger Herschler use is a real life event. It gives you two different points of views on racism. This book makes readers realize how different people really are. I recommend this book to everyone, because no matter what race or religion or beliefs, this book, THE DARKEST CORNER, you can relate to in your life. It will cause you to think about what path you wan to live: one of love or one of hate.

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