Sources of Light: Historical Novel Society

It takes courage to face injustice in life. It takes no less courage to write about the many ways people hurt each other and bleed all the goodness out of a community. Margaret McMullan in her Sources of Light has the courage to tell a story that’s all too real, all too terrifying, and one that took place in many variations throughout the South of the 1960s. Adults reading this story will remember the newspaper headlines: beatings, lynchings, cruel exclusions. But for young readers, this is history, not part of their life story. It will be no less challenging for children to read and understand the violence than it has been for adults who lived through those times. The story of how a young girl named Sam takes up a camera and learns to use it to reveal the black-and-white truth is poignant, mesmerizing, intense. McMullan’s pristine prose and clear vision of those days brings the times into focus, even if we still can’t comprehend the destructive power of hate. When Sam moves with her mother from Pennsylvania to Jackson, Mississippi, she witnesses violence at a black voter registration drive. After that, the violence seeps into her personal life in a way neither she, nor her mother or grandmother, can ignore. This is a powerful novel, one worth adding to any shelf.