Today is National Book Lovers Day. The origins of the day are lost in time but it is celebrated on August 9th each year. It is a good day to talk about the book, Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood. Glory Be was the July selection of NPR’s Back Seat Book Club. You can listen to the interview with the author here.
It is June 0f 1964 in Hanging Moss, Mississippi. Eleven year old Glory is hot and waiting for her friend, Frankie, so they can go to the Community Pool to cool off. In twelve days, on the fourth of July, Glory will be 12 years old. Every year since she can remember, her birthday party was held at the Community Pool. Glory and Frankie and everyone else soon learns that the Community Pool will be closing to fix “cracks” in the pool. The truth is that the pool is closing because the Civil Right’s Act has passed and been signed into law and blacks can no longer be excluded. Rather than open the pool to everyone in Hanging Moss; the town council has decided to close it.
The other place Glory hangs out is the Library. She helps the librarian, Miss Bloom. One afternoon, she meets a girl from the north, named Laura. Her mother is in town helping set up a medical clinic for the poor. Miss Bloom is looking after Laura while her mother works. Like Glory, Laura loves Nancy Drew mysteries. She shows Laura around town and during their stroll, Laura helps a small black girl drink out of the “whites only” drinking fountain. Glory was, as the Brits say, gob smacked. There was one fountain for whites and another for coloreds and that is the way it had always been.
Glory’s mother died when she was very young. The only mothering she can remember has come from the family's black housekeeper, Emma. Glory and her sister, Jesslyn love and respect Emma. Jesslyn is going into high school in the fall. She and Glory have been on different paths for months. Jesslyn is growing up and her interests are changing and she is not as available as she has always been.
Change is coming to Hanging Moss, too. Freedom Riders are in town registering voters and setting up a medical clinic. Some in town fear the change and others, like Miss Bloom and Glory’s father, Brother Joe Hemphill, embrace it. The story is told through the eyes of an adolescent who until now has not questioned the rules she has lived by. Glory begins to understand that the custom and law she has always lived with are not the same thing as the values she has learned from her father and Emma. As Glory grows and sees that her cancelled birthday party is only a small part of what is wrong with closing the Community Pool, she and Jesslyn forge a new relationship.