The Real Education of TJ Crowley by Grant Overstake – Book Review

by Grant Overstake
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The Real Education of TJ Crowley by Grant Overstake

What Lessons Did You Learn In the 7th Grade?

Home-schooled in his whiteness, thirteen-year-old TJ Crowley thinks he knows everything about black people. Not that he’s experienced anything about them firsthand. Everything he knows about them and the ugly names he flings, he learned from his half-crazed mom. She flips out whenever she sees a black person. And lately, she’s been flipping out all the time.

It’s the summer of 1968. The nation is divided and on edge over Civil Rights and the war in Vietnam. Even Walter Cronkite seems confused about what’s going on. The slaying of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sparked violent protests coast-to-coast, including Wichita, Kansas, a segregated city where, due to racial discrimination, blacks have been forced to live in one Zip Code until now….

In this landmark work of historical YA fiction, two American families with different pigmentation of skin land side-by-side after the new Fair Housing law makes it a crime to discriminate against people of color. Nobody can prevent the Washington’s and their daughter from moving to the home of their dreams, even in an all-white neighborhood like the Crowley’s. Not legally. But the Crowley’s are a vengeful brood with ties to very evil men….

For TJ Crowley, it’s been a bummer of a summer. With his father away from home and his brother gone off to fight in Vietnam, TJ and his mom are all alone in their house on the hill just one street away from the racial dividing line. When the nightly curfew kicks-in, their doors are locked tight. While his fearful mom drinks her worries away, TJ watches from the living room window as firebombs light the sky….

Despite everything, TJ is excited about going to Brooks Junior High where he plans to be a sports star. But he’s worried about the 7thGrade because, with forced integration, black students will be bused over the dividing line to join him. He’s also worried about his dorky best friend, Eric, who wears tie-dye and let his hair grow past his collar like a dang hippie.

At thirteen, TJ thinks he knows all there is to know, until the doorbell rings one day and The Real Education of TJ Crowley truly begins….

Book review:

A creative coming-of-age novel that examines critical themes of racism, family, and friendship, The Real Education of TJ Crowley by Grant Overstake follows the story of a fiery boy, growing up in a racially prejudiced family.

Growing up during the Civil Rights Movement, TJ is aware of the struggle that exists in his society. The greater struggle for him, however, is present within the confines of his home. TJ’s life takes a turn after his father leaves and his older brother enlists to fight in the Vietnam War. A stranger soon moves into their home purporting to be TJ’s relative. TJ is caught in between the bigotry perpetuated by his new father figure and the secret friendships he forms with his black peers at school. As he gets acquainted with the African American family that moves in next door to his house and learns powerful lessons in school, TJ begins to question his racial bias and starts to grow into a perceptive, successful young man.

Since the story is told from TJ’s perspective, his growth is evident as the story moves forward. Once an angry, self-absorbed teenager, TJ becomes a different person as his view and attitude start to change. Supporting character’s roles are equally impactful as they represent both sides of the society then: both the racially-biased and those who believe in the equality of all people regardless of skin color. The confusion and battle within TJ are further brought out through the story’s background as blacks fight for their rights against a prejudiced society. The work is hopeful yet realistic. It includes painful experiences that blacks encounter as the struggle continues.

Carefully crafted, The Real Education of TJ Crowley is an important work that examines relevant themes through the powerful story of its main character. Artisan Book Reviews highly recommends The Real Education of TJ Crowley by Grant Overstake. Book reviewed by Edith Emunah for Artisan Book Reviews.

                          Purchase The Real Education of TJ Crowley by Grant Overstake today!
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The Real Education of TJ Crowley by Grant Overstake
Published by Grain Valley Publishing on November 5, 2018
Genres: Coming of AgeFamily & FriendshipHistorical FictionPrejudice & Racism FictionYoung Adult
Pages: 382
Format: HardcoverKindlePaperback
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