It's the fall of 1960, and Louise Collins is a sixth-grader at William Frantz Elementary School in one of the poorest neighborhoods in New Orleans. Louise's mother Pauline is keeping her out of school as part of a boycott against court-ordered integration. Almost the only child attending Frantz this year is six-year-old Ruby Bridges, the first African-American student to enroll there.
While Louise stays home helping out at her mother's boarding house, Pauline is busy as a member of the Cheerleaders, a group of white mothers who gather daily to taunt Ruby as she enters the school. When a quiet stranger rents a room at Pauline's boarding house, both Louise and her mother can tell right away that there is something that makes him different from anyone they've ever met before. What they can't predict is the chain of events that his arrival will launch, touching every facet of their lives.
In My Mother the Cheerleader, first-time author Robert Sharenow brings readers into the heart of America's civil rights battle. Sharenow succeeds where few authors have dared to venture crafting a convincing first-person account, and opening a window of understanding toward people supporting the wrong side of historic issues.
No one would blame Sharenow if he tied up the end of this novel in a tidy bow, transforming Louise and her mother from segregationists into civil rights freedom fighters. But the author travels a more difficult path, revealing the incremental ways that real change often takes hold. Robin Wright Gunn lives in Savannah, Georgia.