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Book Review: Let It Shine

Since it’s halfway between Loving Day and Juneteenth, I think it’s appropriate that we celebrate this book set in the midst of Civil Rights in Virginia.

Ever since her mother died, Sofie’s always tried to live up to the impossible standard of the obedient, demure, Black woman that was and is so celebrated in society. She’s a “good girl” a “nice girl” and she hates it. When in a moment of pique she decides to attend a meeting of the local Civil Rights movement (I wasn’t sure if it was SNCC, SCLC, or one of the many other groups fighting for Civil Rights). At that meeting, she runs into an old friend, Ivan. Ivan is Jewish, a fighter, and also harboring a long-time crush on Sofie. Together they have to find a way to be together when everything in the world is trying to rip them apart.

I enjoyed this story about Sofie and Ivan. I adored Sofie and her reasons for throwing off the yoke that she’d had put on her. I liked her resolve. Her motivations for wanting to be more involved in the civil rights movement felt real. Visceral.

The writing was solid. The language lovely. Cole has a way with description that other authors should really look at and emulate. 

There’s two stand-out scenes for me. The first is when the protestors are getting trained in how NOT to react to all of the vitriol and abuse that they know they are going to suffer. How they learn how to take a punch. A kick. A blow to the face. It’s a scene that has stuck with me. The second is the sit-in itself. It’s a hard scene. Really hard. Well-written but at times like a punch in the gut. It was real. Raw. And it really draws parallels to the protests that are going on today (May-June 2020).

That being said, the relationship felt almost secondary to the Civil Rights story. The interracial aspect of their relationship was there, but not really a major factor or obstacle which it should have been in 1961. There were also some minor inaccuracies in the portrayal of Jewish life, which if you follow our Jewish Posts, you’d know is a thing for us. Additionally, the pacing felt off… slow in the beginning rushed at the end. I wasn’t satisfied with the ending of the love story. And that knocks it down a star.

Ultimately, this a very good read from a Black author.

So I’m going to give this:

Four Stars.

If this is your jam, you can get it here.

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