The narrative opens on a dusty Tennessee day in 1965. That is the day when Eddie Russel’s preacher father drops a bomb shell. Eddie and his sister Lakeesha will be part of a small group of black high schoolers to integrate the local all white high school. For football star Eddie this is not good news. ‘You all want us to go to an all-white school, we’ll go,’ he said. ‘But don’t expect us to be heroes.’ From that beginning Eddie, Lakeesha and their friends, Lethe Jefferson and Rochelle Perry, are set upon a roller coaster ride filled with racial slurs, angry glares, and just plain animosity. From the coach who doesn’t want a black player, to an assumption the students must be behind and need make up work to those who ignored, outright animosity and grudging approval the four find themselves fighting an uphill battle for acceptance. As Eddie runs laps to allow the white boys times to shower after football practice to teacher’s eyes directed toward by not quite meeting his to stares and gasps the first days of school are not easy ones. Cafeteria workers who were careful to not touch black hands, grudging respect building in unsuspected teachers and fellow students, being ignored, sitting out football game after football game, always feeling afraid, and decisions to be made.
Mr. Touchdown offers the reader a peek into the turmoil facing many students, black and white, during 1965 as they face changes in their lives when the law demanded that the schools be desegregated. Athletes, straight a students none of that matters, everyone knows -they- are dirty, they cheat and they can’t compete with white students. Everyone knows -they- are bigots, hate everyone not white and have no compassion. Facing anger and outright hatred of many of the teaching staff as well as fellow students is something few of us can honestly say we have experienced. Integration forced black and white to look within themselves and find the commonality of humankind…. It was not always an easy struggle. Writer Phillips has well portrayed the struggle for black and white alike as they come to understanding of themselves, social mores of the time and change in society.
Written mainly in third person writer Phillips draws the reader into the tale from the outset and holds reader interest tight as we follow the ups and downs of four young people who are facing more stress than most of us face in our lifetime.
Mr. Touchdown is an outstanding read filled with resonating, illustrative language used to forge an animated teen world filled with shop class and unfair gym teachers, rattle of band, pep rallies and pompoms. Gusty dialogue, fast-moving story line, and frankly astonishing twists and turns rooted in the revolutionary social change that were part and parcel of our country during the 1960s are presented in readable fashion sure to draw middle school and high school reader attention. Writer Phillips has managed to balance the vivid portrayal of community undercurrent, cross generation distress, personal struggle, teen angst, and violence against the beginnings of understanding and acceptance by adults and fellow students. From outright anger to false acceptance to real understanding, teachers are portrayed in believable manner.
Racism, segregation, separate and never equal, are presented in gritty words and gritty manner. The writer has crafted a work of fiction based in historical fact. Eddie is a character with whom reader’s can identify for both his struggle as a black youth, and that of simply being a teen in an adult world.
Excellent choice for the classroom, the pleasure reading shelf, homeschool library and middle to high school curriculum.
Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend.
Powerful, thought provoking read … Recommended … 4 stars
Genre: Young Adult
Author: Lyda Phillips
Line/Publisher iUniverse 2021 Pine Lake road STE 100, lincoln, NE 68512 http://www.iuniverse.com
Available: Amazon, Barnes and Noble $13.95 Paperback, Hardback, eBook