Riot A protest of the Civil War draft by Walter Dean Myers
My First Booktalk Riot by Walter Dean Myers was my very first real booktalk. I presented it first to kids in a local middle school who seemed to enjoy it. There are powerful voices in the stories, issues of racism and wartime, and best of all, it is written as a screenplay.
Booktalk for Riot by Walter Dean Myers 2009
Have you ever wanted to read a movie? Set in 1863, this screenplay features fictionalized accounts of the riots that were staged in protest of the Civil War drafts. Claire, a 15-year-old African American, has poignant thoughts on the subject.
After being attacked on the streets for being black, she has this to say to her mother:
“If it’s my skin that makes me unsafe, can I take it off & put it in a drawer until the streets are calm again? If it’s my skin that puts me in the sights of murderers, can I change my dress or my apron? Where is this “safe” you’re talking about? And if I’m black and you’re white and that makes me a target, where is this “family” you’re talking about? Where is it, Mum? Where is it?”
And, later, Claire talks about life after the riots:
“Maybe, when this is all over, when the streets are quiet again, we’ll be able to sit down and sort it all out. Maybe one day we can even forget about the ugliness and not worry about what color we are. We can just be the Johnson family, proud owners of the Peacock, the best place in New York City. And anyone who walks through our front door can just be a human being. Just a human being.”
NYPL events that feature Walter Dean Myers