review: The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks

Yesterday evening, #ABCCD discussed The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks Adapted for Young People by Brandy Colbert and Jeanne Theoharis (Beacon Press, 2021). Dr. Sarah Park Dahlen and I have chosen some really outstanding books over the past year, and this one was no exception.

Brandy Colbert is the author of 9 books for children and teens. Her most recent book, Black Birds in the Sky: The Story and Legacy of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, was the winner of the 2022 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for Nonfiction and was a finalist for the American Library Association’s Excellence in Young Adult Nonfiction Award.

Jeanne Theoharis, a distinguished professor of political science at Brooklyn College, originally authored the adult version of the book in 2013 which won a 2014 NAACP Image Award; 2013 Letitia Woods Brown Award and was named a 2013 Choice Top 25 Academic Titles. As descendants of activists, her sister recounts attending protests as a very young child. Theoharis has authored or co-authored over a dozen books on civil rights, the politics of race and education, and social welfare. After realizing there was no scholarly work on Mrs. Parks’ life, Theoharis set about to write just that.

The book provides more robust, and accurate information about Parks than we’re used to reading. I connected with three overarching themes in Theoharis’s work. First, Parks was a woman or integrity. Second, there was no well-planned, straight path to civil rights. Parks didn’t plan to remain in her bus seat, and the 26-year-old Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t have plans for his leadership role. What these leaders did realize were both racial and class differences that impeded their work. Third, Parks and other Black women leaders of the time realized the gendered difference while the men didn’t. This adaptation manages to make Park’s life accessible while taking readers back to that era and explaining how things were in non-bias way.

Something that stood out to me was the Parks’ family’s financial situation; not so much how tenuous their situation was, but that Rosa Parks was much more concerned with her fight for civil rights than financial gain. I think this lack of capitalistic inclination is typical for those doing the work of liberation. Again, Parks was a woman of integrity.

Having read the book, I’m looking forward to watching Peacock’s documentary film that’s based upon the book.  

This book is intended for readers ages 12-18 and belongs in every public, middle and high school library.