Will Campbell was a new author to me. A friend had recommended I read this book long ago. In a conversation over dinner at our house one night, he started talking about this fellow preacher whom he had worked with long ago on civil rights issues in the South. This friend made it sound like an every day occurrence to spend time exploring civil rights down there, like it was just what you did. Since I was born in the '60's, my Civil Rights knowledge centers on book learning and my own adult explorations, and less on sitting on someone's back porch devising creative ways to fight discrimination nonviolently amidst some of the thickest KKK lands in the South. Ahem. I knew this book would give me a little more insight but not necessarily how much.
What I appreciated the most about this text is the voice: Campbell's writing sounds just like he is telling the story, from childhood to the death of his brother later in their adult lives. It is through his words that I came to identify the daily swept yard area between the house and the field, the deep, abiding love of a brother, and the trials and actions of a preacher who finds his own way of holding compassion for both the African Americans and the members of the KKK. His story weaves through the young brothers' early lives, when the boys learned about death the natural way of seeing a dead neighbor's body. It ties in transitions, like college and the Civilian Conservation Corp and how he came to identify as a preacher. But to me, it was the subtle truth of social justice that simply lived in Campbell's veins that most held me in the book. The story held me and filled in many missing puzzle pieces of my understanding of the people who lived in that treacherous time.
Alysa is in the midst of reading The Help. I found it nothing short of ironic and everything if not an opening when she began to read to me a short section of that text. After she finished talking about her amazement of racism as represented in Kathryn Stockett's book, I smiled, moved over next to her with Brother to a Dragonfly and entered the lovely door of book conversation with her. How timely was that!