My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I wasn’t sure what I would think about this book. Seeing as it was set in the 30’s in the Deep South—I was honestly worried about the southern speech. Though I have lived in the South my entire life—I cannot stand to see books with a lot of stereotypical southern speech. This book did have a lot of southern slang and speech patterns but it was more in a speaking style rather than misspelling words to point out the southern accent. Therefore, I actually did enjoy reading this book. In this story we are taken back to a time of deep prejudice—a time when the Klan was in full power. I didn’t particularly enjoy some of the racial slurs used in the story because those slurs hurt me so deeply to read. I know it was necessary for the type of story but it still hurt me to feel such hatred based solely on skin color. This was a reality and I think books like this are important to remind us of the dark places we have been to in our history.
Jessilyn is a young girl that has just turned thirteen. Jessi and her parents have hired help that they treat more like family and when tragedy strikes—the Lassiter family is determined to do the right thing by offering a home to young Gemma. This strikes fury in the hearts of the local Klan members who start to harass young Jessi and her family. From burning crosses in their yard to killing their pets and making very serious threats—this family is in turmoil but refuses to back down to the racism that is prevalent in their home town. When young Jessilyn laments that she has no idea what God expects her to do, her father catches a firefly and teaches her a beautiful lesson from which the title of the book is taken.
“That light is bright enough to light up a little speck of the night sky so a man can see it a ways away. That’s what God expects us to do. We’re to be lights in the dark, cold days that are this world. Like fireflies in December.”
This is part one in a three-part story so while the story is concluded somewhat—we do not see the full set of trials that Jessi and her parents face while providing a home to a young “colored” girl. What we do see though is a final showing of love from both the white and black community as they pull together to support a man and his family that are determined to stand for what is right in a time when it could have cost him his life.
Fireflies in December is a powerful story of acceptance and love that is told from the eyes of a thirteen year old girl who is coming to age in this very trying situation. I do wish that I could have seen more of the bond between Gemma and Jessi but that is a sacrifice you pay when you’re reading in first person. Otherwise I thought that while this book had some racial slurs (again, to show the situation of the day) and some violent themes—it was beautifully written and could be used as a way to talk to your young teen about racism and the hurt that it causes.
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Jennifer Erin Valent is the 2007 winner of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest and 2010 Christy Award winner for Fireflies in December. She lives in central Virginia, where she has worked as a nanny for over fifteen years. A lifelong resident of the South, her surroundings help to color the scenes and characters she writes.
I received this book free from a fantastic program called Tyndale Rewards. I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts and opinions I have expressed are my own.