My Mother The Cheerleader by Robert Sharenow

January 20, 2008

Louise Collins is 13 years old when she is yanked out of school to protest desegregation in New Orleans. Instead of going to class, Louise spends her days helping out around the boardinghouse her mother runs. Her mother, Pauline, spends her days participating in protests down at the school. Pauline is one of the Cheerleaders, a group of women who lead the crowd in hate filled chants as 6 year old Ruby Bridges walks up the steps to the school every morning.. But Louise doesn’t really mind not going to school, and she doesn’t think much about the fact that her mother spends her mornings heckling a 6 year old girl.

“Looking back people tend to think that there were two sides of the line on the segregation issue in the Ninth Ward, but there weren’t, at least not where I lived. Not at the beginning, anyway. Just about everyone in the Ninth Ward believed in segregation, including the Negroes, It was one of those things that you assumed everyone agreed on or you didn’t think that much about. I was in the latter category. I never thought to think any other way.” (pg 53-54)

But when Morgan Miller, a man with a mysterious past comes to town everything Louise knows about her mother, her world, and herself changes—forever. An unflinching look at hate, violence, and courage—My Mother the Cheerleader is a tour de force that shows just how slow, confusing and dangerous change can be.

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