The Road to Memphis by Mildred D. Taylor

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Summary

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Taylor's books about Cassie Logan and her family have been praised by critics because they provide readers with insight into racial tension in the Depression era, particularly in the segregated South. Taylor's descriptions and scenes are so credible that readers have often assumed that her books are autobiographical, that Taylor must have lived these stories. The problems that the Logans face are not sugar-coated; their friends sometimes die or must run away because they are the innocent victims of racial conflict. Most important, however, Taylor presents characters who stand up to oppression, making their voices heard. For the Logans, survival comes from family unity and education and by banding together with their neighbors.

The Road to Memphis is itself an important book because it lets readers see characters from Taylor's earlier books as they are on the verge of becoming adults. Cassie and Stacey are no longer able to hide behind their father, David Logan, and go on a journey during which they must confront racial hatred directly. As a result, as some reviewers have suggested, this is a bleaker book than some of the earlier Logan stories. The book is not without hope, however— Cassie catches a glimpse of a successful Black man, Solomon Bradley, and begins to make plans for her own future. At the same time, Taylor captures most of the confusion that young adults feel as her characters try to make important decisions and as Cassie begins to struggle with romantic feelings that might threaten her plans to get an education. The Road to Memphis recaptures much of the feeling of the earlier books and should interest readers who have read them, as well as those who have not.