The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963


The book is based in Flint, Michigan, with the narrator, Kenny, introducing his family in a cold house on the couch huddled up together, the "Weird Watsons". His family includes his dad, his mom, older brother Byron, nicknamed By, and their younger sister Joetta, nicknamed Joey. It is this last episode that prompts the main conflict in the story, as Byron's behavior worsens. Ultimately he is caught again playing with matches despite having been warned repeatedly against doing just this. Then, Byron dyes his hair, causing the family to decide that Byron should live with his Grandma Sands in Alabama for the summer. It is, however, when their grandmother's church is bombed that the family decides to return home, with Byron, in an attempt to avoid explaining the full implications of what has happened to the children.

Kenny, having never encountered racism of this magnitude before, is unable to process what has happened—he ran to the church moments after the bombing took place as he believed his sister to be in the building, and saw the aftermath. As a result of the bomb, four little girls had died, one was blinded, and one had to have one of her eyes removed. Byron does his best to help Kenny understand what has happened, as the parents are reluctant to explain. Kenny sees that though the world is not perfect, he has to keep pushing on.

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