Gloriana Hemphill lives in the Mississippi Delta with her preacher father and teenage sister Jesslyn, supervised by their African-American maid Emma. It’s the Freedom Summer of 1964, when Yankees have come to town to provide medical care and voter registration aid to Blacks. Glory is upset that she can’t have her usual Fourth of July birthday party at the swimming pool because the town fathers have closed it “for repairs.” She learns that the real reason is to keep nonwhites from using it. The turmoil makes Glory afraid she’s losing her best friend Frankie, who’s starting to parrot his racist father and older brother. They and other townspeople resent the outsiders’ interference in what they consider local matters. Can an almost-twelve-year-old find ways to resist prejudice in her community?
Scattergood was raised in Mississippi, so she is able to portray authentic local color through speech patterns and customs. References to Elvis and the Beatles, cats-eye glasses, and ducktail haircuts give period flavor. The characters are well drawn. The two sisters bicker, yet they are loyal during a crisis. Emma must walk a fine line as a mother-substitute, guiding Glory while not being free to say how she really feels about recent incidents. Glory grows from the egocentricity of childhood to being able to realize how events affect others besides herself.
Glory Be presents a middle-class white child’s perspective of Mississippi during Freedom Summer, and is very enjoyable within those limits. It could easily supplement elementary school history units on the U.S. Civil Rights era, perhaps used alongside other novels with differing points of view.