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In this fictionalized account of the life of Wilson Edward Reed—nicknamed Junebug—readers encounter a spirited, sensitive boy and, later, a determined, adventurous young man influenced by his family’s Christian faith, domestic violence, racial injustice, and mentors who help him succeed in life.

In Vicksburg, Miss., Junebug’s childhood is shaped by oppressive Jim Crow laws enforcing racial segregation and determining everything he and other Black Americans are allowed to do and be. Initially, Junebug doesn’t realize what Jim Crow means, but as he matures, he understands that “Jim Crow is worse than any monster anybody could make up. Jim Crow is the reason we don’t have new books and a gymnasium at our school, like the white kids. Jim Crow is why my daddy can’t get a steady, good-paying job and why the only job Mama can get is cleaning white women’s houses. ... Jim Crow makes things for colored folks so that we get knocked down again and again, and it’s never our turn.”

Junebug’s Mama knows her son, like all Black American children, doesn’t have the same opportunities as white children, but nevertheless she encourages Junebug to always do his best and explains that he will only get out of his education what he puts into it. Junebug loves and cherishes his encouraging mother. When Junebug is 14 years old, Mama dies and his life is irrevocably changed.

Still, Junebug’s extended family rallies around the bright boy, and eventually, with the help of relatives in Seattle, Wash., Junebug is able to escape the South and earn a college degree, the first person to do so in his family.

Though promoted as a middle-grade novel for ages 10-12, this book is better suited to ages 14 and older due to some depictions of violence, racial discrimination, and drunkenness. Christian readers will be encouraged by the way Junebug and his family depend on the Lord for protection, help, and forgiveness, and the way church members offer love, support, and spiritual guidance. (Morgan James Kids)

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