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Diversity in Literature, Historical Fiction, Social Justice, Young Adult Readers

ALL THE DAYS PAST, ALL THE DAYS TO COME by Mildred D. Taylor

Cassie Logan and her brothers (from Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry!) are adults now and anxious to find their lives away from Mississippi where they can no longer tolerate the racial bigotry. They hope to find more opportunities and better treatment in the North. Cassie moves from Mississippi to Ohio, then California and Colorado, and back to Ohio. She has the crushing realization that, although there are no physical signs saying “WHITES ONLY” in the North, the conditions and unspoken racial policies and treatment are the same–just not as overt. Her disillusionment leads her to go to Boston, where she has been accepted into law school. She believes as a lawyer she might be able to fight against some of the injustices she sees around her and lives through herself. When the Civil Rights Movement gains traction in the 1960’s, Cassie is torn about how much to commit to a movement that offers hope for change when her hopes have been so violently destroyed every other time she dared to believe things could be different.

All The Days Past, All The Days To Come is the 8th book in the Logan family series and it is a fitting finale. While it is a self-contained story, I think it deepens in meaning and impact if you have read some of the other books in the series which take place when the main characters are children. I don’t know if I would have been as invested in parts of the story if I hadn’t already invested myself in their outcome when I first read about them as children. (Since I can’t read this book without my prior knowledge of the characters, I don’t really know.) If you have not read Mildred Taylor’s other books about the Logan family, I highly recommend them before tackling this one(particularly Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry!); I believe it will make your reading experience richer.

For me there was definitely the gentle pleasure of visiting good friends I hadn’t seen in a long while. I also appreciate Taylor’s ability to transform my perspective of the Civil Rights Movement from a removed, historical event into a perception of it as a collection of smaller (i.e. daily events NOT on a national stage), intensely personal experiences of fear, courage and cruelty. I was born into a geographic space and skin color that allowed me as a child to believe that racial discrimination was something from the “olden days” when people didn’t know any better and that it no longer existed. Reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry! was the first time I truly engaged with a character whose experience growing up was internally the same as my own and externally very different. That book caused me to begin asking questions with which I still grapple today.   The events in this book take place just before I was born. That fact combined with some of what I see as I look at what is happening on a daily basis in the United States right now shows All The Days Past, All The Days To Come is a connection between that time and the present. What can we learn from the things that were done–and NOT done–then to effect change NOW?

Structurally, I found the pacing somewhat uneven in the second third of the book and there is a 7-year gap in the narrative when Cassie goes to law school that I didn’t like but, as a whole, All The Days Past, All The Days To Come is solidly written with characters I loved spending time with again.

I don’t think I would recommend this as an independent choice for a middle-grade reader, as it contains some subjects that are more contextually appropriate for older readers (there is nothing inappropriately graphic). It is shelved as YA in the library. Like one other reviewer I read, I question whether or not YA is the actual audience for this book. I would not recommend starting with this book but I definitely would recommend All The Days Past, All The Days To Come if you have read at least Roll to Thunder, Hear My Cry!(which I HIGHLY recommend!)

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