Eleven-year-old Gloriana Hamphill, known as Glory, feels like she's about to have the worst summer of her life. It's 1964 in Hanging Moss, Miss., a year that will teach her about bigotry, loyalty and bravery. Former librarian Augusta Scattergood talks with host Scott Simon about her first young adult fiction novel,Glory Be.
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.
Eleven-year-old Gloriana Hamphill, known as Glory, feels like she's about to have the worst summer of her life. It's 1964 in Hanging Moss, Mississippi, and she hears rumors that her neighborhood pool is closing. Her Fourth of July birthday is just days away. But the closing of the pool will be a window into history for Glory Hamphill, who will learn about bigotry, loyalty and bravery in that summer.
"Glory Be" is a book for young readers by Augusta Scattergood. It's her first novel. And Augusta Scattergood joins us from member station WUSF in Tampa, Florida.
Thanks so much for being with us.
AUGUSTA SCATTERGOOD: Thanks for inviting me. I'm so happy to be here.
SIMON: (unintelligible) You're a former librarian, I guess.
SCATTERGOOD: Oh yes, and once the librarian always a librarian.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
SCATTERGOOD: But I don't work as a library right now. I'm a writer.
SIMON: What brought you to want to write a story set among young people in this period of history, the 1960s?
SCATTERGOOD: Well, it all started because I actually lived there in Mississippi during the '60s. My home is Mississippi. And when I stopped working as a librarian, I decided I wanted to write. And I knew a lot about kids' books because I was a school librarian. And I started thinking about stories that would interest young readers, but would also be pertinent to what they were studying or what they needed to learn.
But really, the story sort of started off as a little bit of a memoir. Because a lot of it is things that actually happened between my sister and me, and it evolved into a young peoples' novel - historical fiction.
SIMON: Help us understand the play of the story a bit, because Glory learns that the school is going to be closed. And that's just absolutely devastating news and then she learned the reason why.
SCATTERGOOD: Originally, the town fathers say they're closing the pool because there are things that need fixing. And what she learns is that the things that need fixing aren't just concrete and broken drains.
SIMON: We need to be plain. Their pool is about to be closed because people don't want to integrate it.
SCATTERGOOD: Absolutely. And not only the swimming pool, but she also knows of a threat she hears through her librarian that the library might close, instead of allowing, quote, "just anybody to use the books." So there are a lot of things happening in that town in Hanging Moss, Mississippi in 1964.
SIMON: Let me get you to read a section of your novel. It's from the first chapter. And Glory and her best pal are running along on a hot summer day to meet her older sister, Jesslyn.
SCATTERGOOD: (Reading) Let's go, I said. It's so hot I can't hardly spit. Jesslyn is already at the pool. She might up and decide she's bored and leave before I put my big toe in the water. I scratched at a mosquito bite and tugged at the bathing suit under my shorts. The backs of my legs were burning up from sitting on the concrete bench outside the library. I couldn't wait to feel the water's coolness, to dive in and flutter kick all the way to the shallow end.
(Reading) Frankie yanked his towel. I hope the pool is even open, he mumbled. Wait a minute, I said, it'll be open. I'm going swimming. Why would they close the community pool now when every body needs a place to swim? I heard something. He stared up at a noisy mockingbird perched in the shade tree in front of the library. Anybody watching Frankie would've sworn that mockingbird was the most interesting critter in the universe.
(Reading) About cracks needing fixing, nobody's closing our pool. Where'd you hear that? My Daddy, but it's a secret, Frankie answered and headed off like he hadn't said a thing. Your Daddy, what does he know? I raced after him all the time, thinking why in tarnation would our pool be closing on the hottest day of the summer, just 12 days before the Fourth of July - my 12th birthday? And what was the big secret, anyhow?
SIMON: A lot of the story is about growing up in a time when you're told you're too young to understand things. But at the same time, you know that something is going on around you - something that you will be a part of one way or another.
SCATTERGOOD: At the time it was happening, whether or not we knew we were a part of anything, I think it all sort of evolved. And that's how I hoped to make Glory, you know, that she wouldn't know much at the beginning of the story but she learned a lot. She learned from the civil rights worker's daughter she befriended. She learned a lot from her maid, Emma, and certainly from her father - and even from her big, bossy sister, Jesslyn.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
SIMON: Yeah, that's - well, and the principal characters in the book are all white. Did you...
SCATTERGOOD: Well, except for Emma, of course.
SIMON: Emma, Emma. But did you think about making any attempt to put in the story on the other side of town, too?
SCATTERGOOD: I really didn't because I did not see that as my story to tell. I tried very hard to flesh out the African-American characters. Certainly, I had a tremendous love for Emma. And I felt like I really wanted her to not be a stereotype.
SIMON: And did you have an Emma in your life, or more than one Emma?
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
SCATTERGOOD: I had an Emma. I absolutely had an Emma, her name was Alice. And although I had both my parents taking care of me too, I had a brother and a sister who were twins, and Alice and I read Nancy Drew books together as Emma and Glory do.
SCATTERGOOD: And she was a wonderful cook. She taught me how to cook. And I tried to make Emma a really great cook. She was also based a little bit on another friend of mine. I was taken care of by a woman who actually was named Emma, so she's probably and combination of people that I knew.
SIMON: Do you know where Alice is now?
SCATTERGOOD: Alice, I was at Alice's funeral, you know, 10-15 years ago. And she's not with us anymore. Unfortunately, a lot of people I would've loved to have read this book didn't live. The librarian that I'm just so fond of who was an activist in our town...
SCATTERGOOD: ...she recently died.
SIMON: Was that all the more important a reason to write the book, so that young people will be able to pick up the threads of that story?
SCATTERGOOD: Oh yes. I think that the people who were there when the actual events happened, for them to be able to tell the story and to share it with young readers, I think that's very important.
SIMON: Augusta Scattergood, a former school librarian and now has written her first novel for young adults, "Glory Be." She joined us from Tampa. Ms. Scattergood, thanks so much.
SCATTERGOOD: You're very welcome. I loved talking to you. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.