Listen to the Recess! Clip
In Darby, a historically significant novel for young readers, author Jonathan Scott Fuqua shows us that we must not underestimate the enlightened thinking of children. In this instance, the wise ones are two best friends, 9-year-old Darby Carmichael and Evette Robinson. They are an unlikely pair, considering that the story is set in the South in the 1920s, where racial tension created an unwelcome environment for their friendship; Darby is white and Evette is black.
Even so, together the girls succeed at becoming contributors to their county newspaper. Although Darby and Evette both work on articles, only Darby is given full credit for them. The publisher conceals Evette’s identity, fearing that his white readers would refuse to pay for a paper that features the work of a black reporter. The girls’ column receives rave reviews, that is until they write an article that hits at the heart of racial issues in their community.
Shortly before the publication of their column, a 12-year-old black boy dies after being attacked by a racist white landowner. Amid the racial turmoil that ensues, some adults in the county remain unwilling to talk head-on about the issue of race, leaving it up to the two young girls to address. Written with childlike candidness, Darby and Evette write an article stating that they believe there should be equality between the races, and that respect for one another should not be dependent on the color of one’s skin. Initially, their article creates a disturbance in the community, but eventually it draws out a long overdue discussion about the many injustices taking place in their county.
Several aspects of the story told in Darby remain with us to the present day, particularly issues of injustice, some of which, now as then, remain undiscussed, a taboo of sorts. Children, however, notice; they have questions; and they are unafraid to voice their thoughts, sometimes courageously, much as Darby and Evette do. The two-fold value of this book is that it provides young readers with a glimpse into the dark side of our American story, and it encourages us to bring the discussion of injustice into the lives of young people, for whom discussions of any sort are seldom taboo.