60 Books in 2019 #31: Let The People See: The Story Of Emmett Till by Elliot J. Gorn

2 posts will go up today mostly because I didn’t feel like editing the past two nights:

But we’re starting with an upsetting but engrossing piece of nonfiction. Let The People See gives a detailed account of the events around the 1955 lynching of Chicago teenage Emmett Till in Missippi. I knew the story, in that I knew it happened. I’d read the name Emmett Till, knew he was killed for breaking the social code of the deep south, that is, paying sexual attention to a white woman (allegedly), and that his killers had been found not guilty because of course they had.

Gorn doesn’t flinch from the details most of them awful about Till’s demise, but what struck me, both on a human level, and on a very very good artistic one, was Gorn’s constant reminder of Till’s age. He was 14 years old when he was murdered.

The age issue is important though, especially to the culture gap of the case. To the urban people who knew him best, 14 was still a child, but to the rural people where he was killed, 14 was old enough to be working, a man.

But he was a child, and the book reiterates that over and over again. This was a life cut tragically short. As such, there’s not a lot to work with when it comes to Till himself. But the events around his murder and the effect it’s had on society is fascinating. Till became a martyr and rallying cry of the Civil Rights movement, and the haunting of his murder feels deeply connected to the way young black men are still treated by those around them. (48 hours after I finished reading, 17 year old Elijah Al-Amin was killed by a white man who found his listening to rap music “threatening.” So this shit has gone precisely NOWHERE in the past 60 or so years.)

Upsetting, engrossing and altogether excellent, I think Let The People See is worth recommending, and for me personally, was a good jolt after my Fluffy fluffy June.

And now for something completely different. Up next is The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson. Wilson is one of those writers who helped swing open the gates of comics fandom for me with Ms. Marvel so her fantasy novel, set in Spain at the sunset of the Islamic Rule there, is probably pretty special.

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