Several of the chapters take the reader back to
Both Celeste and Shuck have incredible depth, as do several of the other characters. Nichols’ Celeste becomes a real person very quickly, from her first questions about why she decided to go to
Only one character did not ring true. While there are other Pineyville blacks that do not participate in Celeste’s Freedom School activities, Nichols chooses to highlight one character who responds with hatred toward Celeste and refuses to let his daughter attend Freedom School. While the character, Mr. Tucker, could be created with sympathy (even while remaining something of a bully) and seem realistic as someone who feared the danger that the movement could bring to the little town, Nichols casts Mr. Tucker in an almost consistently negatively light. He does act as a protective figure to several single black women neighbors, but portraying him as a potential child molester takes something away from his character, making him seem flat.
One of the most important elements of the book for me was reading about the Celeste’s motivation. In everything I’ve learned about the Civil Rights movement and Freedom Summer, I’ve been amazed by the strength of the volunteers. I imagined their pure motives, their desire to see justice in the South, their bravery. And so as I read the first pages of the book, I was surprised to see Celeste’s ambivalence and fear. I was interested to see her questioning her own motives. I had idealized the volunteers, and in the first chapter of the book I was drawn in to the reality of the experience, which only made my admiration for them stronger.
There are images in our culture of the Civil Rights movement—young men sitting at a lunch counter, Rosa Parks arrested on the bus, marchers knocked over by fire hoses.