Realistic novel of a black girl from Minneapolis who goes in the 1930s to live in the sea islands of South Carolina, where her only living relative, her great grandmother, lives....
|Number of Pages||:||206 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
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Shuttered Windows Reviews
Florence Crannell Means wrote from the 1930s through the 1960s, and made a name for herself as a writer of "ethnic" fiction. Although she herself was white, her characters include Hopi Indians, Hispanic migrant workers, African Americans, and Japanese Americans (as in her Newbery Honor winning book about internment camps, The Moved-Outers). Her intention was very explicitly to promote understanding and friendship among the different groups she wrote about. I first encountered Means because of my interest in college girl fiction; one her earliest books, Dusky Day: A College Story, and one of her last, That Girl Andy: One Girl's Year at College, feature young women at college (both of the heroines of these books are white, but on my to-read list are two about black college students, Great Day in the Morning and Reach for a Star). The two books I read left me underwhelmed by Means' story telling abilities, and I generally felt that while she was well meaning, she was also overly earnest and overly didactic. And of course, nowadays, if someone who is white like me wants to read a book about a character who's of another race, there are plenty of books written by people who are actually writing from their own experience (probably not enough, but compared to the 1930s, lots). So for these reasons, I didn't have particularly high expectations for Shuttered Windows, which is about Harriet, a sophisticated, musically talented girl from Minneapolis, who, fresh from a large integrated high school, travels to South Carolina to spend a year with her great grandmother who lives on an island off the coast. There, Harriet attends a boarding school for black girls, and learns a lot about her heritage.Despite my misgivings, I gave Shuttered Windows a chance because the stars seemed to be aligned in its favor when I came across it (and a couple of Means' other books which I left behind) at a used bookstore last week. Not long ago, in paging though Suzanne Rahn's Rediscoveries in Children's Literature, I noticed that in her chapter on Means, she devotes a lot of attention to Shuttered Windows, so I knew that if I read it, I'd have Rahn's lucid analysis to look forward to afterwords. Also I had just made my first ever trip to South Carolina (to see the eclipse), was very impressed by the live oaks and Spanish moss, and felt eager to read a book set there. And finally, when I picked Shuttered Windows up at the store and saw the cover with the illustration of a school gateway, I realized that it counts as a vintage boarding school story, which I collect along with the college books.I found Harriet to be a relatable character, and enjoyed the school story aspect of the book very much. Harriet experiences culture shock, finds the Gullah dialect difficult to comprehend, and experiences hostility and resentment from many of the other girls at her new school. But the book is also warmly celebratory of her great-grandmother's culture. There was lots of food for thought in the book, and I found it less easy to dismiss as the work of a self-congratulatory white do-gooder than I had imagined. Rahn's essay, which I wasted no time in reading when I finished the book, is illuminating. The fictional Landers is based on a real-life school ( https://www.tcl.edu/about-tcl/alumni/... ), which Means visited in the 30s. The students there, Rahn tells us, asked her to write a book about girls like them, so she stayed for several months, absorbing the atmosphere and sharing drafts of the story with the girls and getting their feedback. That's probably why it felt more authentic than I expected. To be sure, given the chance, I'd sooner pick up a fictionalized story about the school written by one of the girls themselves (wouldn't it be cool if such a manuscript were to turn up?), but this is the book we do have. I'm glad it now sits in my school story collection, and can imagine rereading it for pleasure one day.