The Soul Brothers and Sister Lou explores important questions involving sibling rivalry, racial antagonism between black teenagers and white police officers, problems of self-acceptance, and a young adult's struggle to break free of parental control. The novel's central character, fourteen-year-old Louretta (Lou) Hawkins, confronts an array of conflicts within her family, school, and community, allowing Hunter an opportunity to examine several important themes.
The ideas that Hunter develops through her central and supporting characters are familiar to most adolescents. Many youngsters compete with their siblings for their parents' attention and affection, just as Louretta competes with her sister, Arneatha. Louretta is convinced that her mother gives Arneatha special privileges. Believing that Arneatha is her mother's "pet" causes Louretta to suffer tremendous emotional pain.
The teenager's need for some private space at home is another concern with which most adolescents can identify. Louretta has no privacy because she lives in a small house with ten family members and must share her room with two younger sisters. As she contemplates her severely crowded environment, she realizes that many of her friends live under similar conditions. She understands why teenagers gather on street corners and in alleys after school. To alleviate this problem, Louretta decides to establish a clubhouse where she and her friends can meet after school for safe, wholesome fun. Much of the novel centers on Louretta's fight to gain support for her idea from her peers and from skeptical adults.
Hunter's novel also addresses the need to achieve self-acceptance. Some of Louretta's friends ridicule her reddish brown hair and light complexion, making her feel unattractive, self-conscious, and different. Fortunately, Louretta's mother helps her to understand and appreciate her diverse ethnic heritage. In The Soul Brothers and Sister Lou, Louretta embarks on a frequently painful but essential voyage of discovery, learning about courage, commitment, self-confidence, and ethnic pride.
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