Reading Group Discussion Guide Introduction:
In June of 1964, University of Michigan sophomore Celeste Tyree leaves her middle class life traveling to Mississippi to volunteer for Freedom Summer. She joins student volunteers from across the country whose collective mission was to register disenfranchised black citizens to vote. Celeste is assigned to Pineyville, a small town best known for a notorious lynching. By day, she tutors the town's children in a freedom school. At night, she prepares the adults to take and pass the state's voter registration test, long used as a tool to disqualify black people from voting. As the summer unfolds, Celeste confronts not only the political realities of race and poverty in this tiny town, but also deep truths about her family and herself. She is drawn to Ed Jolivette, a deeply committed fellow volunteer and is schooled in the ways of the south by her hostess, the very religious, Mrs. Geneva Owens. She stands with the people of Pineyville in their quest for human and civil rights and learns the quality of their character and of her own. Discussion Questions:
- What roles do her parents, Shuck and Wilamena, and her white boyfriend, J.P., play in Celeste Tyree's decision to volunteer with civil rights activists in Mississippi during Freedom Summer? How does Celeste's decision relate to her treatment of others in her childhood?