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Mourner's Bench [Reading] ➸ Mourner's Bench Author Sanderia Faye – At the First Baptist Church of Maeby Arkansas the sins of the child belonged to the parents until the child turned thirteen Sarah Jones was only eight years old in the summer of 1964 but with her moth At the First Baptist Church of Maeby Arkansas the sins of the child belonged to the parents until the child turned thirteen Sarah Jones was only eight years old in the summer of but with her mother Esther Mae on eight prayer lists and flipping around town with the generally mistrusted civil rights organizers Sarah believed it was time to get baptized and take responsibility for her own sins That would mean sitting on the mourner’s bench come revival waiting for her sign and then testifying in front of the whole church But first Sarah would need to navigate the growing tensions of small town Arkansas in the s Both smarter and serious than her years a “fifty year old mind in an eight year old body” according to Esther Sarah was torn between the traditions religion and work ethic of her community and the progressive civil rights and feminist politics of her mother who had recently returned from art school in Chicago When organizers from the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee SNCC came to town just as the revival was beginning Sarah couldn’t help but be caught up in the turmoil Most folks just wanted to keep the peace and Reverend Jefferson called the SNCC organizers “the evil among us” But her mother along with local civil rights activist Carrie Dilworth the SNCC organizers Daisy Bates attorney John Walker and indeed most of the country seemed determined to push Maeby toward integration With characters as vibrant and evocative as their setting Mourner’s Bench is the story of a young girl coming to terms with religion racism and feminism while also navigating the terrain of early adolescence and trying to settle into her place in her family and community.

10 thoughts on “Mourner's Bench

  1. Dr. Cindy Dr. Cindy says:

    Mourner’s Bench a novel by Sanderia Faye is an amazing heartfelt story about Sarah a young girl growing up in a small rural town in Arkansas The story is focused on her journey to religious salvation during the highly turbulent times of the civil rights movement Sanderia Faye does an awesome job providing insight into the mind of this young girl and capturing the essence of her inner struggles with family dynamics and her relationship with God Sarah is a young girl with an old soul and a witty sense of humor which she uses to navigate her way through numerous adult situations she is subjected to by family and friends This young girl’s plight is emotionally moving and will have you laughing and crying at the same time Sanderia Faye gives us a uniue perspective of what it’s like growing up as a young child during a time of civil rights turmoil and racism in the south coupled with her rite of religious passage This is a must read novel by a new author with great potential

  2. Read In Colour Read In Colour says:

    Children that talk out of turn irk me so initially it was difficult for me to get into Mourner's Bench Told from the point of view of 8 year old Sarah Jones it's the story of the civil rights movements' arrival in small town Maeby Arkansas At the center of the movement is Sarah's mother Esther with whom Sarah is on a first name basis Like I said children that talk out of turn and don't know their place aggravate meSarah is an old woman in an 8 year old's body At a time when she should be outside playing and living carefree she's concerned with getting off of the mourner's bench at revival Mind you she put herself there but she felt it was time given who her mother was For those not familiar with the mourner's bench it's where people who've not yet been baptized but feel they're close to getting a sign that it's their time sit during church or revival In some churches it's believed that parents are responsible for their children's sins until they turn 13 Esther's big city ways keep her on church prayer lists all around Maeby Figuring Esther has enough sins to carry Sarah is determined to get her religion so she can become responsible for her own sins Left behind by Esther when she went off to Chicago Sarah lives with her grandmother Muhdea and great grandmother Granny along with a host of young cousins left behind by their parents to be raised by their older relatives Her close relationship with Granny is a big factor in Sarah's life Her disrespect of her mother is in part due to her relationship with Muhdea While neither Muhdea or Granny cottons to Esther's idea of integrating the local schools and using Sarah to do so it's their dismissal of Esther's opinions that lead Sarah to think she can speak to her mother any kind of wayThere are enough plot twists and revelations to keep the book interesting but there was also enough to call the story line into uestion I had a hard time believing that adults would allow two 8 years to go house to house signing up black potential voters in 1960s Arkansas especially when the threat of the local authority loomed so heavily over them Having had grandmothers from the South I also found it hard to believe that either of my grandmothers would have tolerated any sass that way Muhdea and Granny did and they certainly wouldn't have encouraged me to go against my mother so blatantly At almost 400 pages Mourner's Bench is a decent read but it takes far too long to get to the meat of the story That being said it's a decent debut novel from Faye and I'd definitely give her work another try in the future

  3. Elizabeth Marro Elizabeth Marro says:

    An important story well told Mourners Bench takes readers inside the early days of the civil rights movement by showing how residents of a small Arkansas town respond in the wake of mandated school integration and the marches led by Martin Luther King Jr The details of life in that town are rendered vividly and provide a rich backdrop for the action of the novel the return of Esther who intends to take up where the town's aging activists are getting ready to leave off The story is told by the eight year old daughter of Esther Sarah who is an old soul despite her age This makes for wonderful moments and a uniue take on major events The choice to use such a young narrator however also created challenges from time to time especially because she had to provide lots of background that a child would not necessarily do on the course of telling a story I loved her though I loved watching her move from suspicion and resentment where Esther was concerned to understanding of what her mother was trying to do And choosing Sarah to tell the story makes this story attractive to both young and adult readers Mourner's Bench shows the struggles within the town's black community Change is feared and resisted for reasons the writer makes perfectly clear The first two thirds of the book seem to focus on the details of daily life and this resistance while the final third moves into dramatic confrontations that lead to an ending that is really just the beginning for Sarah I would have liked to get to these later parts a bit sooner but this is a uibble The book is a wonderful read with lots to say Great for all ages and great for discussion

  4. Sharon Sharon says:

    I won this book on GoodreadsThis is a very interesting book I highly recommend this book to everyone Take the time to read it you won't be sorry I received an advance readers copy before the book was released The story is set in the south and the author moves effortlessly through the story drawing you in and making you feel like you are there This is a book I will read many times It is the kind of story that stays with you long after the last page is read

  5. Jessica Jessica says:

    A phenomenal debut novel that seamlessly blends research with narrative I learned so much about the Civil Rights movement from this book but the narrative was so compelling it never felt didactic I also had the privilege of hearing the author give a reading from the book and she is a spellbinding reader and speaker Highly recommend

  6. Beverlee Beverlee says:

    If one thinks about the Civil Rights Movement what imagesthoughts come to mind? Mourner's Bench is a work of historical fiction that presents a real unfiltered look at how the Movement affected the lives of African Americans in the rural South 4 generations are at the center of this story Sarah is 8 years old and her single goal is to be baptized in the summer of 1964 Her mother Esther is a SNCC volunteer and artist who is not in favor of Sarah being baptized Muhdea Sarah's grandmother and Esther's mother is a staunch traditionalist who disapproves of Esther's behavior Granny Muhdea's mother appears to be much like her daughter though she's keeping something secret What I like the most about Mourner's Bench is that there is no sugarcoating about how African Americans were treated before integration Maeby AK wasn't as rough as Birmingham AL or anywhere in Mississippi but the lack of outright violence doesn't euate to African Americans being accorded common courtesy and respect by its white citizens Several topics are covered in this novel from the divide between who's seen as acceptable in Sarah's eyes the members of her church First Baptist to who's not the SNCC volunteers The divide between the Nation of Islam and Christians in the South Sarah's Uncle Robert joins the Nation and this leads to an irreparable divide between him and Muhdea What I found to be most compelling was Esther's character She is presented as fighter but she doesn't fade into the background as women were expected to do Esther is the leader and her eventual husband Rutherford doesn't take kindly to Esther's independence and strength I was surprised and disappointed that she would even consider marrying him considering his portrayal as an alcoholic abuserSarah the protagonist of Mourner's Bench is a handful Some may call her disrespectful and irritating I admit to having to remind myself several times that she is a child and that I'm simply a reader Mourner's Bench is a story that forces the reader to move out of the comfort of reading in 2019 I think the author's intent is to introduce a clear picture of what the Movement represented for a community All Black people were not in favor of integration and those that were against it were often church members Another perspective Ms Faye presents is that fighting for eual rights for some meant having eual access not necessarily being in the same room making separate but eual work This divide is framed around school desegregation with Sarah being one of a large number of children selected to enroll at the whites only school Esther's effort is met with resistance and the end result is not uite what I expected 4 stars because I think this book presents an honest representation of how African Americans may have felt about the Civil Rights Movement There were some who had fought for years and others who felt powerless to change their environment and who wanted better for the future I think it's always welcome to read from a perspective that's not necessarily my own so that I and other readers can hopefully understand life's why

  7. Linda Klager Linda Klager says:

    This is the author's first book One of the reasons I wanted to read this book was that a friend of mine was reading it with a local book club The other reason I wanted to read this book was that the author is a local writer There was a lot of detail within this read I thought the author did a good job portraying the characters their life in the turbulent racial 60's and what life entailed in rural Arkansas at that time I have never heard of chairs where you sit in the front of the church until you get saved This was a hard concept for me to understand It is almost like someone forcing you to get religion I do understand that there was a lot of injustice done to the black community back in the day That is very sad and hard for me to read

  8. Pamela Hutchins Pamela Hutchins says:

    Wise beyond her years strong minded Sarah must come to terms with growing up in a household of independent woman in her rural Arkansas black community including a grandmother and great grandmother who aren't speaking to each other and a often absent mother bucking church and family as a leader in the struggle to usher in a new era of euality Set in the turbulent 60s and strongly evocative of To Kill a Mockingbird Mourner's Bench is a textured and nuanced look at often unexplored angles of the civil rights movement But than that it's a heart warming story that will have you wanting to give Sarah a great big hug

  9. Debra OConnell Debra OConnell says:

    This book is a uick summer read but not much The story was entertaining enough and I liked the way the narration alternated each chapter between Wim and Leandra I liked Leandra's 'southern mindset' and speech patterns and found myself talking like that in my mind However the conversations between characters were a little too scripted; language was just a little too witty and clever not like natural conversation Every conversation was a bit too perfect Also the love story was a little schmaltzy and overwrought But all in all it was still a story you wanted to stick with until the end

  10. Wiebke Kuhn Wiebke Kuhn says:

    It took me a while to get into this book but it was well worth the effort for me This story brings an unusual perspective for me to the civil rights movement in the 1960s Focusing on a 12 year old black girl growing up in rural Arkansas raised by her grandmother and great grandmother the story shows the resistance to civil rights activists even when they come out of the community the power of religion and its way to control and hold back rural communities and the intricate power connections between the influential black and white leaders of such a small community And the power of women

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