Novel: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Author: Mildred D. Taylor
Target Audience: 11 and up
Genre: Historical fiction
Publication Year: 1976
Setting: Mississippi; 1933
A Favorite Quote: “There are things you can’t back down on, things you gotta take a stand on. But it’s up to you to decide what them things are. You have to demand respect in this world, ain’t nobody just gonna hand it to you. How you carry yourself, what you stand for—that’s how you gain respect. But, little one, ain’t nobody’s respect worth more than your own.”
My One Sentence Summary: Nine-year-old Cassie Logan begins to see her world differently as she is exposed to the blatant racism in her town that permeates everything from the worn out, old books used in her school to the night riders and lynchings.
What I loved about this book: I remember learning about segregation, the KKK, and Jim Crow laws in history class, but as a child, I could not begin to comprehend the scale of this tragedy until I read this book. Good storytelling creates empathy and understanding, which is exactly what this book does. Cassie is a compelling, likeable narrator. Her pride, integrity, and—most of all—her heart make this novel difficult to put down as Taylor introduces readers to the long and difficult struggle for social justice faced by the Logan family.
Major themes: The fight for equality and social justice; pride, determination, and self-respect in spite of a society founded on overwhelming racism
Who should read this book: This is a beloved novel—a Newberry Award winner and National Book Award—nominee that has been read and studied in classrooms for decades. I still recall the vivid emotional impact this story had on me when I first read it in middle school. It is a powerful story, particularly well-suited for readers who enjoy historical fiction and themes that touch on justice and equality. It should be noted that, in light of the story’s setting and thematic content, violence and racist language reflective of the time period are found in this story.
Sequels and Companion Stories
Set Before Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
- The Land
- The Well: David’s Story (novella)
- Song of the Trees (novella)
Set After Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
- Mississippi Bride (novella)
- Let the Circle Be Unbroken
- The Friendship (novella)
- The Road to Memphis