In 1957, Melba Beals was one of the nine African American students chosen to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. But her story of overcoming didn’t start–or end–there. While her white schoolmates were planning their senior prom, Melba was facing the business end of a double-barreled shotgun, being threatened with lynching by rope-carrying tormentors, and learning how to outrun white supremacists who were ready to kill her rather than sit beside her in a classroom. Only her faith in God sustained her during her darkest days and helped her become a civil rights warrior, an NBC television news reporter, a magazine writer, a professor, a wife, and a mother.
In I Will Not Fear, Beals takes readers on an unforgettable journey through terror, oppression, and persecution, highlighting the kind of faith needed to survive in a world full of heartbreak and anger. She shows how the deep faith we develop during our most difficult moments is the kind of faith that can change our families, our communities, and even the world. Encouraging and inspiring, Beals’s story offers readers hope that faith is the solution to the pervasive hopelessness of our current culture.
My Thoughts: This is a must-read. There are so many things to praise and unpack here. It’s hard to know where to begin.
First of all, the historical account: This is such a powerful look at our country decades ago. In light of racial conflicts being in the media so often today, I think it’s so important to see what was and what isn’t. Reading Melba’s first-person account was eye-opening for me. Being born in the 80s, segregation wasn’t a part of my history. It was equally eye-opening to see just how far we’ve come as a nation.
I found it humbling to walk along with Melba and hear of the extreme abuse she endured and to know how much we benefit from it today. While there are forms of racism still present today, it’s much improved compared to where we once were.
Spiritual content: This is a true gem. In many ways, it reminded me of Corrie Ten Boom’s story. The story isn’t just an account of what was or what happened, but of how God had carried her through it. How He created in her a heart willing and able to love and forgive those who had persecuted. It’s a beautiful story of forgiveness. But it’s equally a powerful testimony about leaning on Christ. For those being bullied today, Melba has some valuable lessons on how to deal with bullies.
From a writer’s point of view, my first impression was that the story was all over the place. But that’s the difference between a novel and a memoir. The flow of events are often grouped together by subject and not by chronological events. This tripped me up a bit in the first chapter, but once I wrapped my mind around the fact that this wasn’t supposed to read like a novel, I adjusted rather well and thoroughly enjoyed it.
When reading someone’s life story, you have to understand that you may or may not agree with everything they did. But this is THEIR story. While I wasn’t on board with her divorce or the reasons surrounding it, I realize it’s not my place to judge her or pick apart what she could have/should have done based on the partial information I’m given. Melba has graciously shown us intimate moments of her life and her failings in hopes of sharing the lessons she had gleaned along the way. She had certainly done that.
Rating and Recommendation: There are so many applicable lessons on faith, perseverance, forgiveness, and serving Christ on earth that I would highly recommend this book to any Christian or anyone curious to learn how a Christian walks through persecution. I’m giving it 5 stars.
~ I received a copy from Revell through Net Galley. I was not compensated for this review. All thoughts are my own.