Jenn Reads: One Mississippi by Mark Childress

One Mississippi was a book club pick for the book club I run with girlfriends outside of the library.

One mississippi, two mississippi…

Imagine: It’s 1973. Your favorite television program is The Sonny and Cher

One Mississippi by Mark Childress

Show. Desegregation has just happened in your school. You’re moving to a new home, in a new state, for the upteenth time. And you’re a junior in high school. Could it get any worse?

It does.

Written by the author of Crazy in AlabamaOne Mississippi is the story of Daniel Musgrove, a junior in high school in Minor, Mississippi. He’s moving with his family from Indiana (Yankee country, he believes) to Mississippi. The schools have just been integrated (seems a bit late to me) and they’re having their first interracial prom. Finding himself an outsider, Daniel gets a new best friend in Tim Cousins.

Things spiral quick out of control after the prom, when Arnita Beechman, is named prom queen, the first black prom queen in the school’s history, and she is involved in an accident. A small lie becomes a big lie and lives are forever changed.

While there were many moments of seriousness, there were moments of humor, wit, and “oh geez”. Childers wants us as readers, to remember what it was like to be in high school. We all had moments we’d like to forget, but we all also have moments we’d love to relive. A few of my favorites included Daniel and Tim meeting Sonny and Cher at a concert and Daniel’s house blowing up (you’ve got to read it!).

Unfortunately, Childers tries to stuff too many issues into 400 pages. There’s racism, teen sex, gay issues, bullying, Vietnam, etc, etc. As a group we felt if he had focused on just one issue, the book may have been more cohesive. Personally, I felt the storyline with Daniel’s brother Buddy, who goes off the Vietnam, was hugely ignored.

This is in no way a “teen” book, although it could be read by teenagers. And neither is it a book for those who lived in the 1970’s. My girlfriends and I, all in our mid-20’s enjoyed this book for a glimpse into life during that time period. While our own high school experiences were not as problematic as Daniel’s, we related and sympathized.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.