Title: Mr. Touchdown
Author: Lyda Phillips
Price: $23.95 hardcover, $13.95 paperback, $6.00 download
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Point of Sale: iUniverse
In Memphis, Tennessee, four Douglass High School black teenagers are chosen to desegregate the all-white Forrest High School. Selected for their high academic marks and respect to discipline, Eddie, the only male, also excels in athletics. Little Rock’s attempt at integration brought out the National Guard and Federal troops, which still lingers in the minds of the people. Hopefully, Mr. King’s “tough-mindedness and tender-heartedness” hymn can keep these four teens safe as they walk into hostile territory.
As a young adult work of fiction, frankly, I hold this novel, Mr. Touchdown in high esteem and marvel at its thought-provoking theme. Ms. Phillips writes an authentic historical based story encompassing only part of the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960’s. She shows how black schools are precluded from receiving appropriate funds in purchasing books and equipment. When the teens attend open enrollment and are given a tour of their prospective classrooms, they’re astounded by the resources available to their white counterparts; microscopes sit on the tables while colorful periodical tables and anatomy charts hang on the walls.
Also depicted is the use of the coarse “N” word (I don’t say it so I won’t write it) and judging blacks as dirty and inferior. I cringed when their counselor puts on a false cheerfulness while attempting to enroll the youths in classes that are far below their academic standing; only to be caught later washing her hands over and over in the girl’s bathroom. Making the read more convincing, the author captures the black students’ fearful anxiety while attending their first day of school, amidst glares and cruel comments. As they attend classes the Forrest students ostracize the teens by not speaking to them and even ignoring their mere presence.
However, the Douglass teenagers are not the only victims in this tale. Two Forrest students befriend the black teens, whereas only one experiences the shunning and harassment; eliciting sympathy and awareness for the Douglass students ordeal. In addition, their friendship incites an attack that hospitalizes one black youth.
I highly recommend Mr. Touchdown as an appropriate book for young adults that bestows some authentic historical value in the guise of fiction. The characters are formidable in maintaining the plot’s brisk momentum. Although, used sparingly and not overly offensive, the dialog does contain some cuss-words but nothing an average pre-teen to pre-adult has not heard before. I would allow my twelve year-old to read this story. The publisher, iUniverse chose Mr. Touchdown for their Editor’s and Reader’s Choice Award symbol, which it rightly deserves.
Tidbits about the author: Lyda Phillips has won awards in journalism and has written screenplays, novels, and more young adult pieces. She has been published in The Washington Post and Business Week, and holds degrees from Northwestern, Columbia and Vanderbilt universities. Lastly, the idea for Mr. Touchdown stems from her personal experience when in 1965 her all-white southern high school integrated.
Reviewed by Pamela - read about her here