Book: The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis, narrated by Bahni Turpin
Published January 2012 by Listening Library|Run Time: 7 hours, 59 minutes
Where I Got It: I borrowed the audio C.D. from the library
Genre: Children’s Historical Fiction
“We are a family on a journey to a place called wonderful” is the motto of Deza Malone’s family. Deza is the smartest girl in her class in Gary, Indiana, singled out by teachers for a special path in life. But the Great Depression has hit Gary hard, and there are no jobs for black men. When her beloved father leaves to find work, Deza, Mother, and her older brother Jimmie go in search of him, and end up in a Hooverville outside Flint, Michigan. Jimmie’s beautiful voice inspires him to leave the camp to be a performer, while Deza and Mother find a new home, and cling to the hope that they will find Father. The twists and turns of their story reveal the devastation of the Depression and prove that Deza truly is the Mighty Miss Malone.
I wasn’t sure what to think about The Mighty Miss Malone at first- I had a hard time getting into it, but as I listened, I did like it more than I thought I would.
I think part of why I had a hard time with it, particularly at the beginning, is that Deza is very much a special snowflake. She seemed a little too precocious and comes across as condescending. I think that Deza has been told she’s special so much that she has a hard time handling not doing well on something- like when her best friend does better on an assignment than she does, and she expected her friend to feel bad about it. She does seem to handle it a little bit better when she’s at a different school, but the book seems to be more about the Great Depression than race or segregation, even though it’s touched on a little bit.
And there were a couple points, especially towards the end, where it seemed like Deza’s love of reading and learning was very much encouraged, but Jimmie’s singing wasn’t really nurtured. I’m not sure if it’s because the book is about Deza (and not Jimmie), but I definitely got the impression that Deza being good at school was more important than Jimmie being good at singing.
Still, we do see how racism affects her grades, and, more than anything, the book shows what it was like to live during the Great Depression. It does do a great job of showing that, and I think that’s where the book shines. It does touch on how hard it was for African-Americans to find work, and how much everything going on affected them. For that alone, I’d definitely recommend the book, because I think it is something that needs to be talked about.
One thing that sort of confused me was when Deza, her mother and her brother arrive in Flint. They’re supposed to stay with her dad’s mother (her grandmother) but once they get to Flint, there is no mention of her grandmother for the rest of the book. And if they’re supposed to be staying with relatives there, then why do they stay in the shanty-town, instead of going to find Deza’s grandmother? Unless I missed something when I was listening to the book, which is possible. But why have it be part of the book, when it doesn’t even go anywhere, and is never mentioned again?
I wasn’t sure about the narration at first- I definitely didn’t like it, and I think the narration is a big part of why I didn’t like Deza at first. Deza sounded a lot older than 12, and something about her tone of voice really grated on me, to the point that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep listening. It did get better over the course of the book, and I do feel bad, because a person has no control over what their voice sounds like. I definitely won’t be seeking out anything else narrated by Turpin, but for me, I might think twice about an audio book if I know she’s narrating it.
3 stars. I did like the book, because it does a wonderful job at showing what it was like to be alive during The Great Depression. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Deza, or the narrator, but it’s a really good look at the Great Depression, and that makes it worth checking out.