While her white schoolmates were planning their senior prom, Melba was facing the business end of a double-barreled shotgun, being threatened with lynching by rope-carrying tormentors, and learning how to outrun white supremacists who were ready to kill her rather than sit beside her in a classroom. Only her faith in God sustained her during her darkest days and helped her become a civil rights warrior, an NBC television news reporter, a magazine writer, a professor, a wife, and a mother.
In I Will Not Fear, Beals takes you on an unforgettable journey through terror, oppression, and persecution, highlighting the kind of faith we all need to survive in a world full of heartbreak and anger. She shows how the deep faith we develop during our most difficult moments is the kind of faith that can change our families, our communities, and even the world.
Encouraging and inspiring, her story offers hope that faith is the solution to the pervasive hopelessness of our current culture.
If I ever complain about the comforts of my life, please remind me of Melba and her story.
Even from birth - seriously, literally from birth where Melba's mother agonized through a painful, long labour in a hospital closet because people of colour were not allowed to be admitted as real patients and provided with full medical care - Melba's life story is akin to climbing Mt. Everest. Every day an uphill battle to overcome the racist stigma of society leveled against her; and all because of the colour of her skin.
In the 21st century where racism is denounced, it is easy to forget or not comprehend how difficult it was for targeted people in times past to just live their lives normally as everyone else. Even just getting groceries or using a public restroom could be a trial. And Melba entered into the fray even deeper by being one of the 9 youth selected to integrate the Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was truly a time of going exactly where no one else wanted you to go. Think of it: how often do you go somewhere you are not wanted? Generally, human nature pushes us to just go where love and acceptance is. But Melba chose the hard path. She chose to help forge the way so that all may attend school regardless of their skin colour. And what a resistance she and the rest of the Little Rock Nine met! Death threats became constant, so much so that Melba began to feel a prisoner in her own home.
Melba rightly points to God as her only source of strength and courage for getting her through those dangerous times. And as she illustrates through the rest of the book, true faith in God is what sustains us through the difficult circumstances and unexpected turns in life. While it doesn't mean we won't make decisions we will later forget - as we are all still human - God is always there for us to turn to and pull us out of the messes we make.
I Will Not Fear is a powerful read. It also a difficult one, so I would hesitate to recommend it to all age audiences. It would be fine for mature high school students with an adult to help them navigate through the various social and moral issues raised in this memoir.
Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.