My Year in the Middle

Written by Lila Quintero Weaver
Review by Elizabeth Caulfield Felt

Lu Olivera was born in Argentina but has grown up in Alabama. In 1970, Lu is in the sixth grade at a newly integrated public school. Progressive Albert Brewer is the governor of Alabama, but former governor and segregationist George Wallace is running against Brewer, and the political divide is evident in Lu’s school. Lu sits in the middle row, between the black students and the white students. Although Lu’s friends have always been white, some of them have become hateful and mean—to her and to the black students. She has a crush on Sam, who sits in the middle row too and volunteers with Lu’s sister at Brewer’s campaign headquarters. In gym class, Lu discovers she is one of the fastest runners, along with friendly Belinda, a black student. Lu’s mother is against girls participating in sports, so Lu trains with Belinda in secret.

Lu is a wonderful character, one who many readers will be able to relate to. A worrier who hates conflict, quiet Lu wants everyone to like her and for everyone to get along. Her journey to discover what she believes in and if she has the strength to do what is right when it is difficult will give shy readers a good role model. Weaver brings to life the conflicts of that time and place—conflicts that have not yet been solved in America. This is an important book for today’s young readers ages 8-12.