Monday, January 9, 2017

Non-fiction Monday: Fannie Never Flinched: one woman's courage in the struggle for American labor union rights by Mary Cronk Farrell

Fannie Never Flinched: one woman's courage in the struggle for American labor union rights by Mary Cronk Farrell. 44 p. Abrams Books for Young Readers, November, 2016. 9781419718847. (Purchased)

This came in my JLG subscription last week. It's size was eye-catching as was its title. I had never heard of Fannie Sellins, so I was the first to check the book out. 

The book opens in 1919 with an account of shots ringing out as blackjacks bear down on a crowd of striking workers and Fannie Sellins' attempts to protect a group of children. She became the target of those weapons. The page-turn brings the reader back to 1897 with Fannie's experience working in a St. Louis sweatshop. She was a widow with four young children to support. The working conditions in these factories were dangerous. The workers were poorly paid, worked long hours and had no rights. The factories were staffed by immigrants, women and children - people with no voice and no power. After learning about seamstresses who joined the United Garment Workers of America, Fannie "stitched together a dream." She decided to organize her co-workers. 

The story is riveting and accompanied by plenty of well-captioned black and white photos. It's a handsome volume save for the end-pages - the faux-denim patchwork didn't work for me, especially when everything else complemented the ecru backgrounds so well. Backmatter includes a timeline of select events in the labor movement between 1877 and 1935, notes, an extensive list of sources, website and book recommendations and an index.

This is not only an important purchase for middle school and public libraries, but one that should be included in as many book talks and Reader's Advisories as possible. Last November, I was inspired by a list of non-fiction at Horn Book (sorry, cant find the link) and did a "social justice" book talk to my eighth grade students. I had purchased and read many of the titles on the list and book talked the ones we owned. I reminded them that in four short years, they will be eligible to vote and should be familiarizing themselves with human rights issues and deciding where they stand on political issues. I encouraged them to read widely and to think for themselves. 

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