240 pages; published January 2014
Mr. Bro. Wiley, the last man living in Low Meadows who was born into slavery, takes his last breath. Twelve-year-old Bean, who loves him just like everyone else in Low Meadows, looks on with his heart breaking. Then, it is time for the community to grieve and to prepare for the sittin’ up, the night they will spend together with Mr. Bro. Wiley’s body before the funeral.
Set in 1940, this quiet book explores a crucial pivot point in a community’s history. Mr. Bro. Wiley is a deeply beloved elder who was born a slave to the Wiley family. Freed by the Civil War, he has provided wisdom and leadership to the black community that transitioned from slaves on the Wiley plantation to sharecroppers for the Wiley family. When Mr. Bro. Wiley dies, 12-year-old Bean tells the story of a community that grieves, mixing in keen observation about the shifting dynamic between the black and white communities. He sees how the world is changing as two black families have settled into Rich Square in town and as Bean and his best friend, Pole, plan a future far away from sharecropping as a lawyer and a doctor. As the days march toward Mr. Bro. Wiley’s final homecoming, for the ritual of sittin’ up with the body at home on the final night before the funeral, a weather system is also moving in which will force the residents of Low Meadows and Rich Square together in a whole new way.
While there is not much action in The Sittin’ Up, Bean is quite a storyteller. His perspective on life and the changing racial dynamics in his community are riveting. It is a gentle middle grade introduction to what changed – and what didn’t – in the South in the post-Civil War era.
I’ll Recommend This To …
- Many middle school classrooms during school visits
- Middle grade teachers looking for diverse books to share with students
- Younger teens interested in realistic or historical fiction