As the Civil War rages, another battle breaks out behind the lines. During a long hot July in 1863, the worst race riots the United States has ever seen erupt in New York City. Earlier that year, desperate for more Union soldiers, President Abraham Lincoln instituted a draft--a draft that would allow the wealthy to escape serving in the army by paying a $300 waiver, more than a year's income for the recent immigrant Irish. And on July 11, as the first drawing takes place in Lower Manhattan, the city of New York explodes in rage and fire. Stores are looted; buildings, including the Colored Foundling Home, are burned down; and black Americans are attacked, beaten, and murdered. The police cannot hold out against the rioters, and finally, battle-hardened soldiers are ordered back from the fields of Gettysburg to put down the insurrection, which they do--brutally. Fifteen-year-old Claire, the beloved daughter of a black father and Irish mother, finds herself torn between the two warring sides. Faced with the breakdown of the city--the home--she has loved, Claire must discover the strength and resilience to address the new world in which she finds herself, and to begin the hard journey of remaking herself and her identity. Addressing such issues as race, bigotry, and class head-on, Walter Dean Myers has written another stirring and exciting novel that will shake up assumptions, and lift the spirit.-- "Journal"
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In this fast, dramatic novel told in screenplay format, Myers takes on a controversial historical conflict that is seldom written about: the New York Draft Riots of 1863, when struggling Irish immigrants protested being called up by Lincoln to 'die for the darkies' in the Civil War. The story focuses on 15-year-old Claire, the biracial daughter of a black man and a white Irishwoman. The diverse voices, from all sides black, white, and mixed race; soldier and policeman; racist, looter, and victim will draw readers into the fiery debates. 'The swells are looking to send us off to fight for the Colored, ' says an angry Irishman who has nothing. 'Coloreds don't have nothing either, ' is one reply. There are no easy resolutions, idealized characters, or stereotypes, and the conflicts are unforgettable. A policeman does not want to shoot the looters. A weary soldier 'clean forgot what this war was about.' Maeve, a bigoted white teen, does change in the end, but only a little. Great for reader's theater, this is sure to spark discussion about race, class, conflict, and loyalty, then and now. --starred, Booklist-- "Journal"
The setting is New York City, July 1863. Lincoln has just called up more troops after the devastation at Gettysburg. Tensions rise and then boil over into riots as Irish immigrants rail against the draft and direct their wrath at the city's African-American population. Fifteen-year-old Claire, daughter of a black father and white mother, finds herself at the center of the vortex. She is forced to grapple with the notion that her race has suddenly become the entirety of her identity while friends and family are pulled into different camps and a mob mentality consumes the city. The author revisits the screenplay format utilized to much acclaim in Monster (HarperCollins, 1999), yet here it serves a wholly different purpose. While the screenplay helped Monster's Steve reveal a creative identity apart from his mug shot, in Riot it gives a sense of the proportion and chaos of the times, as the camera pans across the city jumping from one incident to another, simultaneously tracking numerous characters. Myers crafts a sympathetic cast, which is excellent fodder for conversations about race and class, and the book is also a choice pick for reluctant readers who will relish both format and pacing. Once again, this master storyteller has delivered. --starred, School Library Journal-- "Journal"
In a screenplay format similar to his groundbreaking Monster (2000), Myers tells the story of the Civil War Draft Riots in New York City. Aerial camera shots--zooming in, panning away--take viewers from present-day Manhattan through history, settling in on July 13, 1863, effectively establishing the context for the play. Fifteen-year-old Claire Johnson, daughter of an Irish mother and African-American father, could pass as white but chooses not to, but her identity crisis mirrors the upheaval the city faces as Irish mobs--angry at the federal government's Civil War draft, blacks they see as taking their jobs and wealthy 'swells' who can buy their way out of the war--attack blacks in the streets, loot stores and provoke soldiers into firing into crowds. The large cast of characters gives voice to the various players in the historical event, including Walt Whitman, whose words add philosophical depth to the story. Another innovative work by an author constantly stretching the boundaries of what fiction can be, and a natural for readers' theater in the classroom. --starred, Kirkus Reviews-- "Journal"