new england literary news

‘Voice of Freedom’ brings civil rights activist to life

An illustration from “Voice of Freedom,” a new children’s book on the life of civil-rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer.
An illustration from “Voice of Freedom,” a new children’s book on the life of civil-rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer.

Spirit of freedom

In a new children’s book, Roxbury painter and collage artist Ekua Holmes juxtaposes light and dark, flowers and protest signs to represent the life of Fannie Lou Hamer, civil-rights activist. Hamer, who with her husband adopted two girls, had a special place in her heart for young people. In the epigraph of “Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement” (Candlewick), she is quoted as saying: “The truest thing we have in this country at this time is little children. . . . If they think you’ve made a mistake, kids speak out.”

Malcolm X called Hamer, the youngest of 20 children born to sharecroppers in the Mississippi Delta, “the country’s number one freedom-fighting woman.” Jailed and beaten for demanding service at a whites-only cafe in 1963, she ran for office three times. A powerful orator and singer, she fired up many a rally belting out “This Little Light of Mine.”

The children’s book, written by Carole Boston Weatherford, was one of four runners-up for the Caldecott Medal, one of the top US prizes for children’s books.


In the ‘Wild’

Write what you know goes the adage. New Hampshire novelist Diane Les Becquets puts her experience hunting elk with a bow to powerful effect in her novel “Breaking Wild” (Berkley), being published Tuesday. The gripping thriller received starred reviews in three leading magazines read by booksellers and librarians, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and Publishers Weekly. In Booklist, reviewer Joanne Wilkinson wrote, “Skillfully blending the emotional terrain of women’s fiction with a briskly paced adventure story, Les Becquets packs her narrative with fascinating details about hunting, the logistics of search-and-rescue, and the beauty and danger of the wilderness.”

“Breaking Wild” is about Amy Raye Latour, a bow hunter who is reported missing in the Colorado wilderness, and Pru Hathaway, the ranger who sets out to find her. A well-coordinated search turns up little, and as the days pass, the operation turns into a search and recovery mission. Yet the ranger believes that somehow the woman is a survivor. Les Becquets, an avid backpacker who lived in the ranching town of Meeker, Colo., for more than a decade, now teaches writing at Southern New Hampshire University.


‘Serial’ on stage

Can a hit podcast make a great stage show? Members of the audience at Symphony Hall will find out when Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder take them behind the scenes of their podcast “Serial” about the murder of a high school senior. For their show, “Bingeworthy Journalism,” at 8 p.m. March 30, the pair will use some of their favorite audio to explain how they created suspenseful episodes. They are veteran producers of the public radio show “This American Life.” Tickets are available at

Coming out

 “My Father, The Pornographer”

by Chris Offutt (Atria)

 “West of Eden: An American Place”

by Jean Stein (Random House)

 “Find Her” by Lisa Gardner (Dutton)

Pick of the week

Lydia McOscar of Brookline Booksmith recommends “Bastards of the Reagan Era” by Reginald Dwayne Betts (Four Way): “Betts, sentenced at age 16 to eight years in prison, makes a resounding monument of this memoir rendered in poetry — the last language of the dispossessed. ‘Bastards’ reaches back over the graves of American black men who died in the streets long before Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Mo.”

Jan Gardner can be reached at