The ALAN Review - Michaeline Chance-Reay
Carolyn Meyer has taken a kernel of history and imagined a most moving elaboration and yet another memorable female protagonist. Rose Lee Jefferson draws each house in Freedomtown, including her grandfather's, which contains the extraordinary garden where the rare white lilacs grow, to create an illustrated historical record before the town is literally moved away. During the 1920s, the residents of Denton, Texas-the white, voting residents, that is-actually did move an African-American community to make room for a city park. The novel contrasts the lives of Rose Lee and her relatives with those of the white family for whom they work. This is a realistic portrayal of the precarious existence of African-Americans in the South and how their sense of community and faith helps them survive. Varying attitudes towards segregation are reflected in the actions of both segments of the town, and unlikely heroes emerge. Meyer gives us believable characters and a good story which will give middle school and high school readers a greater understanding of the human drama in American history.
Janice Del Negro
In 1921 the "colored" section of the Texas town of Dillon was called Freedom. It had its own school, its own churches, a general store, homes, and gardens. When the white residents of Dillon vote to turn the area into a town park, the residents of Freedom realize their loss is a foregone conclusion. The subsequent dismantling of the community and the businesses and families living and thriving there is seen through the eyes of Freedom teenager Rose Lee Jefferson. Characterizations and relationships ring true as Meyer depicts the black community chillingly intimidated by a silent Ku Klux Klan march; the tarring and feathering of Henry, Rose Lee's brother, a World War I veteran who refuses to buckle under to a rich white man's son; and Rose Lee's enlisting the aid of the daughter of the same rich white man to smuggle Henry to safety. Through it all, Rose Lee chronicles the last days of Freedom in a sketchbook, drawing pictures in an effort to capture the reality and spirit of the place she thought would always be home. Based on a true story, "White Lilacs" has a concrete sense of time and place that will transport readers so effectively that their view of the present may be forever altered.
From the Publisher
"Meyer's writing style is accessible and engaging, making this a good read or an easy curriculum connection to the multicultural mainstream."--Booklist