Being a Christian teen can be tough. Even under the best of circumstances a Christian teen trying to live his or her faith will feel isolated. Many will be teased or ostracized for making godly choices. So many teens end up abandoning their faith in an effort to fit in and be accepted.
I was really interested when offered the chance to review the new book I Will Not Fear: My Story of a Lifetime of Building Faith Under Fire by Melba Pattillo Beals. In the late 1950’s, Beals was one of nine teens chosen to be the first to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was a dangerous assignment for anyone, but leaders knew it was necessary to break down racial barriers in education.
Since this happened before I was born, I am sure none of you were alive at the time either. In fact, I was young enough/old enough that what happened during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s were the vague memories of a very small child and weren’t a part of school curricula yet. Most of what I learned, I absorbed after moving to Atlanta as an adult and hearing the stories from the survivors themselves.
If you don’t know much, I must warn you, this book is disturbing. It’s almost impossible to imagine human beings can treat others the way these teens were treated merely because of the color of their skin. Although the story itself will draw in and shock your teen, the real value is in the author’s explanation of how she used her faith to survive the horrors she endured.
I love that the author tells her dramatic life story without becoming overly dramatic or maudlin. The book doesn’t end with the experience in Little Rock, but also shares the other trials she has experienced in her life. While one could possibly question the godly wisdom of her particular divorce situation, the example she sets and the faith “pearls” she shares throughout the book are primarily godly wisdom.
This book is not a Bible study. It isn’t filled with scriptures and deep faith exploration. At the end of the day, that’s what makes it so powerful. She tells her captivating life story and shows how relatively simple things like prayer and repeating the 23rd Psalm while being attacked kept her calm and grounded. Her practical wisdom can give teens a way to remember who they are and whose they are in the drama and trauma of the teen years. Her story can encourage them to also strengthen their faith and lean on God during rough times. It can motivate them to live the life God wants them to live – even while others are trying to cause them harm.
I really think any teen who enjoys a good story or history will enjoy reading this book. It reads like a biography. The biblical points are clear, but don’t come across like a sermon. She even gives a sentence at the end of each chapter of the principle she was trying to teach to make it really clear.
For teens who are curious about racial reconciliation or the rifts they see in our society, this book will give them a more clear picture of the Civil Rights Movement through the eyes of a key person in the fight. As a parent, I really appreciated the attitude she and her family took about shouldering responsibility at a young age, because it will help others in the future. It’s an idea that is so foreign to many today – putting the needs of others before your own. Digging deep to do what is right, even if you suffer to do so. It’s a tale of surviving and thriving through circumstances I would imagine would terrify your teens – but realizing she only survived because God was with her and she leaned on him.
I really suggest you and your entire family read this book and discuss it. Mature upper elementary children can probably handle it as well. It will give you a lot to think about and discuss as a family.
This book was given to me for free in exchange for my honest review. An affiliate link is included for your convenience.