With the Might of Angels

This is really the only book out of the Dear America relaunched series that I think is unequivocally excellent. Unfortunately, I hate the relaunched cover designs. I think they’re ugly as sin. Why did you have to go and muck with the traditional “detail of photo/painting with larger image behind it?” It worked!

With the Might of Angels: The Diary of Dawnie Rae Johnson, Hadley, Virginia, 1954, Andrea Davis Pinkney, 2011.


It’s mega depressing, and I would argue even more depressing than some of the books that are full of death (like, say, the Titanic novel, or the one about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire) because it’s set in 1954 and yet it’s horrifyingly relevant. Nobody dies (thankfully), but it’s just incredibly bleak in the background. My only extremely minor nitpick about the book is that it starts out right with the “My name is X and I was born…” instead of letting it come out in the narrative, which is understandable in a book for kids but also led me to start out every single piece of writing that way for many, many years. (Also, Dawnie is named Dawn because she was born at dawn. Am I the only person who spent all of my youth wishing for a “meaningful” name because I spent all my time mainlining books like these where the protagonists were like “My name is Robin because just as I was born a beautiful robin began singing blah blah blah.” No one ever went “My name is Mary because my parents liked it.” I digress already.)

Anyway, Dawnie lives in Virginia with her parents and her younger brother Goober, who we learn in the epilogue has autism but throughout the novel is just generally termed “slow” or “special” because it’s the 50s. He’s obsessed with peanuts, hence his nickname, although he does have a real name—they didn’t put Goober on the birth certificate or anything. Her mother takes in laundry and her dad works nights at a dairy. And in her very first diary entry, on her birthday, she pastes in a newspaper clipping about the banning of segregation in high schools. Oh boy.

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