Published by Carolrhoda Lab on September 1, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, historical fiction, romance, tough issues, WeNeedDiverseBooks
Format: Print, Hardcover, Audiobook, Overdrive
The Printz honor book, Out of Darkness, is a harrowing tale centered around a family newly arrived to the town of New London. This book centers on themes of family and love in the midst of racism while leading up to one of the largest school disasters: The New London explosion in 1937. Friendship and love blossoms in the midst of a highly racist East Texan town between Naomi, a Mexican American girl, and Wash, an African American boy. This is not a tale to take lightly but must be told nonetheless.
Michael L. Printz Award Nominee (2016), Lincoln Award Nominee (2018), Américas Award (2016)
Out of Darkness is a tough book to read due to dark themes, but readers should not be dissuaded. This book puts a spotlight on racism in the south. East Texas during the 1930’s was a highly racist time period for anyone who was not white. This book dives into racism that is not addressed often in young adult fiction. This book demonstrates the injustice of racism at that time period with an emphasis on Mexican Americans and African Americans. This book is strong with the emphasis placed on racial issues as well as the theme of love. Naomi already had a strong family connection with her siblings, but she had yet to experience love. This novel dives into a realistic, but star-crossed, first love which is believable and powerful.
There are aspects of this book that could be difficult for some readers to handle. Readers should be aware of issues of rape and molestation are within this novel. This could be a downside for some readers who are unable to handle these topics. These topics are highly sensitive and could evoke trigger warnings with some readers. All readers are sure to be made uncomfortable by these additions to the book. However, these issues did not take away from the story but enhanced it. They were included with good reason. The author handled them delicately and was not too heavy handed.
This book could appeal to many young adults for the various themes. Young adults hoping to learn more about segregation and racism issues will find a lot to take out of this book. Those interested in love stories and family connections will find a heartwarming, if not also heartbreaking story. All of the themes within this book serve as appeal to young adults. This book is also a sort of history lesson on the tragic New London school Explosion of March 18, 1937. Young adults have a lot to gain from reading this book. This book is sure to stay within the minds of many people for years to come. It is a story that is not easy to forget.
Research activity 1: students should be encouraged to research the New London school explosion in order to dive into historical backdrop of the novel.
Research activity 2: students should be encouraged to research the racism within the south during the late 1930’s to truly understand the plight of discriminated people.
Research activity 3: What rules and regulations were enacted in response to the New London school explosion?
Research activities can be followed up by group presentations on the different topics.
Students can create a paper mache scarecrow like the one built within the novel or a braid like the braid of Naomi’s mother.
The New London school Explosion is not something everyone hears about but is important . Young adults respond well to video and audio recordings. “Stuff You Missed in History Class” is a podcast that covers events students do not hear often. They recently had a recording about the New London School Explosion.
The New London School Explosion. (2017, March 15). Retrieved June 13, 2017, from http://www.missedinhistory.com/podcasts/new-london-school-explosion.htm
Love was such a huge part of this novel, specifically the love between Naomi and Walter. During the 1930’s, when segregation was enforced, interracial couples were largely banned. Interestingly enough, the state of Washington was one of 8 states without a ban. This article discusses issues with anti-miscegenation bills. This is a great article to show that racism was not only in the south.
Johnson, S. (n.d.). Blocking Racial Intermarriage Laws in 1935 and 1937: Seattle’s First Civil Rights Coalition. Retrieved June 13, 2017, from http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/antimiscegenation.htm
Pérez, A. H. (2015, May 6). OUT OF DARKNESS. Retrieved June 13, 2017, from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/ashley-hope-perez/out-of-darkness-perez/
I did not know what this book was about before I opened it. I’d seen it around the library, on the Printz honor list, and on Goodreads, but I’d never looked at it. I picked it without reading what it was about and was surprised to see the historical backdrop. I live not even 45 minutes from the city of New London. It was interesting reading about something I’d only heard of maybe once. Reading this book allowed me to learn not only about a local tragedy but more about the racial issues of the past in my area. It lead me to gain a sense of understanding towards the highly conservative area I live in. I only hope that books like this will continue to be published. Not only to teach about smaller historical tragedies, but to show the follies of our ancestors.