Sonderbooks Book Review of

My Selma

True Stories of a Southern Childhood at the Height of the Civil Rights Movement

by Willie Mae Brown

My Selma

True Stories of a Southern Childhood at the Height of the Civil Rights Movement

by Willa Mae Brown

Review posted April 6, 2024.
Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2023. 230 pages.
Review written July 31, 2023, from my own copy sent by the publisher

In My Selma, debut author Willie Mae Brown tells stories from her childhood, where she lived with her big family in Selma, Alabama. She was a child at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, so she gives us stories of what it was like to find out about those events from a child’s perspective.

The stories are a little on the rambling side, and I’m not quite sure about how they’re organized – they don’t seem to be chronological. But that does give them the authentic feel of childhood memories. Some of them are stories about blatant racism – especially when her brother and sister were jailed for a week after being part of a peaceful protest. Others are just stories of being a kid in a big, loving family – like the year she wanted a baby doll for Christmas and then got so excited about her new bike, she didn’t open all the presents.

The book isn’t long, and it pulls you into these stories of a child who was witness to some events and people that shook the world.

As the author says in the Preface:

I write these stories of a Selma that I knew and loved. My own Selma. A Selma that brought me joy, troubled me, and baptized me into racial injustice and into the race for justice. I write these stories through the voices of people who lived at the time when I was growing up in Selma. We lived together, schooled together, played together, churched together, and fought together for the same rights as our white brethren who denied us the freedoms we were born with….

I write about Selma because our lives have historical precedence in shaping the future. I write so that you may hear, see, smell, and feel the injustice of ignorance but also the sweetness of everyday life, illuminated in my words.

And yes, you’ll find things both serious and sweet in these pages, all maintaining a child’s perspective.