Little Rock

Elizabeth and
Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock
by David Margolick
If this book were a novel, I wouldn’t’ve believed the plausibility
of the story. But instead, it’s true, so you really have to accept the twists and turns. And this book has plenty of
that stuff going on.
Many of us recognize the famous photo. It’s one of those things
you wish weren’t real, but it is, and it’s important that we face it. Here it
is:

(photo credit: Will Counts; Indiana University Archives)

So this book is the story of Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little
Rock Nine who integrated Central High School, and Hazel Bryan Massery, the girl
jeering Elizabeth
in the photo.
It’s clear from the start that somehow they meet again later in
life, and it seems like there was some sort of reconciliation.
And when I got to that part of the book—as older adults, they were
chatty friends who attended flower shows together!—it really seemed too good to
be true.
And, of course, it was.
The friendship lasted several months, and then things got
uncomfortable and tense, and they stopped speaking.  
Much about this book was sad and sobering.
I really thought Elizabeth Eckford would turn out to have a great
life—becoming a professor or something like that. She was bookish as a girl. But
it turns out her life served up a whole bunch of bad stuff to her, and that
takes its toll, and her life was rather rocky.
And then there’s Hazel. She apologized to Elizabeth
later in life, but that didn’t actually make things better in the end, and it’s
unclear whether she ever completely understood how she had hurt Elizabeth all those years
ago.
More complex and nuanced than it appears at first glance. 
On the Vanity Fair website, you can read Margolick’s fine article about the two women.

4 thoughts on “Little Rock

  1. I had this at home and didn't get it read before it had to go back to the library. I'll have to get it back, based on your review.

    I always rather had the sense that Eckford probably had a rough life–life does not often deal kindly with shy and bookish people, particularly when they were African American in mid-20th-century America. I'm sorry to hear life was hard for her.

    They just had a program on American Experience (or something on PBS) about this, and Elizabeth said, everyone thinks that picture was the worst moment. What they don't know is that each day after, going to that school, was hell. It was such a sad statement.

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