July 10, 2012 by Heidi
Title: The Mighty Miss Malone [Amazon|Goodreads]
Author: Christopher Paul Curtis [Website]
Standing: Stand alone novel, but it is a companion to Bud, Not Buddy, in which Deza is a character.
Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction, PoC
Published: January 10th, 2012 by Random House Children’s Books
Format: Audiobook; 7 hrs, 54 min. Read by Bahni Turpin.
Source: Borrowed from my local library.
“We are a family on a journey to a place called wonderful” is the motto of Deza Malone’s family. Deza is the smartest girl in her class in Gary, Indiana, singled out by teachers for a special path in life. But the Great Depression hit Gary hard, and there are no jobs for black men. When her beloved father leaves to find work, Deza, Mother, and her older brother Jimmie go in search of him, and end up in a Hooverville outside Flint, Michigan. Jimmie’s beautiful voice inspires him to leave the camp to be a performer, while Deza and Mother find a new home, and cling to the hope that they will find Father. The twists and turns of their story reveal the devastation of the Depression and prove that Deza truly is the Mighty Miss Malone.
Listen close, because when you pick up the audio for Christopher Paul Curtis’s The Mighty Miss Malone, you are on a journey to a place called Wonderful. Set during the Great Depression, and featuring a struggling African American family, The Mighty Miss Malone had so many opportunities to be tragic and heart wrenching, but it didn’t take them. Instead, The Mighty Miss Malone was one of the most warm, welcoming, delightful reads I have had in some time, and I have no qualms against naming this my absolute favorite audiobook of 2012 thus far. Bahni Turpin’s narration is utterly fantastic, from her ability to capture the childlike wonder and steadfast heart of Deza, to Jimmy’s hypnotic singing voice. This may only be my second audiobook under her narration, but between this and The Help, Bahni has insured herself a spot as one of those narrators I will follow from book to book whether I know anything else about it or not.
As wonderful as the story and narration both were, I also feel it’s my imperative to take a moment and applaud this cover. Seriously, the people over at Random House got this one right. Not only do they feature a person of color front and center, but this young model captures the spirit of Deza perfectly with her bright but curious eyes. I love that she’s the cover, and that there’s nothing else going on. Highly approved of!
Christopher Paul Curtis’s novel holds within it so many rich moments it is practically brimming with them, though more than anything, it is a story of family. The Malone’s aren’t so bad off as some in the time of the Great Depression, and their community in Gary, Indiana has provided a lot of opportunities for them, particularly for Deza. Her parents know that their Darling Daughter Deza is the best hope for their family with her astounding intelligence, kind heart, and good nature, but unfortunately, tough times sometimes mean that not even the closest families can stay together. After a boating accident on Lake Michigan, Deza’s father leaves Gary in hopes of finding work elsewhere, and the rest of the family heads to Flint in hopes of tracking him down. There, Deza is faced for the first time with a harsher kind of racism than she has ever encountered before, as well as the heartbreak and fear of losing one’s home, and losing one’s brother to a dream.
Friends, I absolutely adored the Malones. What a fantastic family. Deza’s mother and father have taught her and Jimmy to be kind, careful, and intelligent in their decisions. The children know that not everything or everyone can be judged on appearance, and that any time anyone is trying to convince you of an opinion, you must beware of them driving the “Manipula-mobile” to get you to believe their case. They always take care of family first, even when they’re far apart. They’re encouraging of one another’s strengths, kind but firm about mistakes, and loving to no end. Additionally, I just dare anyone who loves reading to not like Deza Malone. This girl understands what it’s like to get so lost in a book you feel like you’ll just die if you don’t finish the next chapter, and reading her story I felt the same.
You heard it here folks, if The Mighty Miss Malone doesn’t win a whole heap of awards, I will be shocked. Shocked, I say! The story was phenomenal, I learned about life in the upper Mid-West during the depression, was able to understand the historical and cultural significance of Max Schmeling and Joe Louis, and was able to view the world from an alternate perspective. It will make you ache, it will make your heart soar, and most of all it will remind you to keep close the ones you love. If someone doesn’t hand Christopher Paul Curtis an award, I will do so myself!
Likelihood that I’ll be back for more: A resounding YES on both accounts! I loved this audio so much, I’m thinking I’ll do Bud, Not Buddy on audio as well, and since Bahni Turpin’s become one of my favorite narrators, I’m thinking I’ll listen to The True Meaning of Smekday read by her soon.
Recommended for: Anyone who enjoys a heartwarming story, this would be the perfect audiobook to listen to on a family road trip! With bonus points for historical fiction and new perspectives.
Real life repercussions of reading this book:
Why yes I did walk home from the train station after listening to this singing Gary Indiana at the top of my lungs at 1:00 am: