A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Many real-world events are referenced, including the enslavement of Black people in America, the Civil War, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, and the crack epidemic of the 1990s. But the novel uses the events as backdrops, often glossing over historical details in favor of exploring broader themes of family, courage, and resilience.
Positive Role Models
Lewis family members show resilience in the face of racism, striving to stay together despite forced separation during enslavement. Joshua and Lem display incredible courage when running away from the plantation to fight with Union soldiers during the Civil War. Luvenia dreams of going to college and works hard to pay for tuition -- eventually starting her own business -- and Tommy shows bravery when he publicly protests against racism at a press conference. A White character, Skeeter, puts himself in harm's way for civil rights. But most White characters embrace a racist hierarchy that favors them, whether overtly as Ku Klux Klan members or in more subtle ways, such as supporting segregation.
Main characters are Black and have diverse body types, skin color, ages, and personalities. Minor characters include Chinese American and Indian American friends. Discussions of systemic racism range from slavery to banks not lending money to Black people to segregation and other injustices. Ambitious women like business owner Luvenia and doctor Jennie are respected by family members. Religious diversity via the first Lewis ancestor from Sierra Leone, who's Muslim and prays to Allah (the rest of the Lewises are Christian). Disability is normalized, with minor characters such as Uncle Yero described as "a little touched in the head and crippled in his left leg" and Loote Epps who "lost a leg to sugar," plus characters who stutter. But a blind boy does need to be rescued by nondisabled characters, and one cruel overseer "walks with a limp."
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Violence & Scariness
Characters are captured and forcibly transported by ship, people scream during family separation, and someone is tied to a tree. Mentions of toes cut off as punishment and Black people being hanged. Most acts of violence are described without detail, but one whipping and a beating reference blood, pain, bruising, a dislocated jaw, long-lasting damage to an eye, etc. Extreme peril as enslaved characters hide from White men on horses and hounds. Rifles and guns are used to threaten or defend, but there's no active gun violence described, except past mentions of people being shot. References to the Ku Klux Klan and the terror and murders they carry out. Mention of a father dying in the Vietnam War. A character gets bitten by a snake and is rushed to the hospital.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Characters kiss chastely, have crushes, court each other, get married, and start families -- but romance and dating aren't the focal point. A little innuendo when a girl's bra strap breaks, and another girl responds, "You ain't got nothing to hold up so what you need it for?" and a woman is described as having an "enormous bosom" in a nonsexual context.
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No swearing, but White characters frequently use the "N" word and other racist terms like "uppity" or "boy" to refer to a Black adult. "Negro" and "colored" are used as neutral terms by White and Black characters, as is the word "crippled" (mentioned once). Put-downs include "stupid," "heifer," and "sissy."
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Products & Purchases
Characters watch I Love Lucy and drive a Chevy. Mentions of Mercedes-Benz, McDonald's, CeCe Winans, Bonnie Raitt, and Greyhound bus.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Main characters infrequently smoke pipes, cigarettes, cigars and drink beer; one is addicted to crack and shows symptoms of withdrawal (vomiting, shaking, etc.). A minor villain spits tobacco juice. Mentions of whiskey and people being "liquored up."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Glory Field by bestselling author Walter Dean Myers paints a stunning portrait of a Black family's experience of racism in America over the course of about 250 years. While the book emphasizes the importance of family and perseverance, expect historically accurate violence: enslavement, beatings, a whipping, and intimidation by the Ku Klux Klan, as well as mentions of shootings and hangings. Outdated terms like "Negro" and "colored" are used neutrally throughout the book by both Black and White characters, though only the latter use the "N" word (frequently) and other racist terms like "uppity" and "boy" to demean Black adults. One main character is addicted to crack; others smoke cigarettes, cigars, and pipes and drink beer infrequently. Romance and dating aren't focal points, though characters do kiss, have crushes, get married, and start families. The story features almost all Black main characters in a range of body types, skin color, ages, and personalities. There are empowered women characters, and the book normalizes various disabilities among minor characters.
Is It Any Good?
In this deeply moving, centuries-spanning saga, readers can feel the pain and terror -- and the hope, love, and joy -- of a Black family with roots in coastal South Carolina. The Glory Field -- as the Lewis family named the land given to them after the Civil War -- nurtures six generations of sons and daughters. Myers impressively works digestible stories of the Lewis women and men into the broader backdrop of Black American history. Luvenia's desire to chart her own path in Chicago parallels The Great Migration, when millions of Black people left the American South. Tommy's decision to chain himself to a local sheriff in protest overlaps with the events of the civil rights movement. Though these anecdotes can feel glossed over, given the depth of the historic material, Myers successfully humanizes the often inhuman scale of atrocities leveled against Black Americans since the 1700s. Despite their challenges, characters aren't defined by their traumas; instead, it's their ingenuity, familial love, and ongoing perseverance that's emphasized in this stunning tale. It's a story that will linger with readers long after they've closed the book.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.