Sunday, September 19, 2021

Book Review: The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks: Young Readers Edition

About the Book:

Rosa Parks is one of the most well-known Americans today, but much of what is known and taught about her is incomplete, distorted, and just plain wrong. Adapted for young people from the NAACP Image Award—winning The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks, Jeanne Theoharis and Brandy Colbert shatter the myths that Parks was meek, accidental, tired, or middle class. They reveal a lifelong freedom fighter whose activism began two decades before her historic stand that sparked the Montgomery bus boycott and continued for 40 years after. Readers will understand what it was like to be Parks, from standing up to white supremacist bullies as a young person to meeting her husband, Raymond, who showed her the possibility of collective activism, to her years of frustrated struggle before the boycott, to the decade of suffering that followed for her family after her bus arrest. The book follows Parks to Detroit, after her family was forced to leave Montgomery, Alabama, where she spent the second half of her life and reveals her activism alongside a growing Black Power movement and beyond.

Because Rosa Parks was active for 60 years, in the North as well as the South, her story provides a broader and more accurate view of the Black freedom struggle across the twentieth century. Theoharis and Colbert show young people how the national fable of Parks and the civil rights movement—celebrated in schools during Black History Month—has warped what we know about Parks and stripped away the power and substance of the movement. The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks illustrates how the movement radically sought to expose and eradicate racism in jobs, housing, schools, and public services, as well as police brutality and the over-incarceration of Black people—and how Rosa Parks was a key player throughout.

My Thoughts:

Reading The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks: Young Readers Edition by Jeanne Theoharis was a bit of a rollercoaster. At the beginning, I read slowly – just a chapter or two a night – as the hard realities that Rosa and other Black people faced weighed heavy in my mind. As the narrative progressed, I increased my reading as I was fascinated by Rosa and her fight against segregation and racism. Toward the end, my pace slowed again and I felt a bit more disconnected from the story than I previously had.

Growing up, I learned a whitewashed version of history and knew very little about Rosa Parks other than her refusal to give up her seat on the bus. After reading The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks, I have a much greater admiration and appreciation for this remarkable woman. Her strength, her demeanor, her love of reading, her spiritual life, her pursuit of justice and equality. All of it inspired me. I’d love to read Mrs. Parks’ books, My Story (autobiography) and Quiet Strength. I imagine those books tell even more of her story as The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks focuses on her experiences with segregation, racism, and activism.

The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks: Young Readers Edition is marketed for 7th-9th graders/ages 12-17. However, I learned much from this book as an adult and the writing is not simplified, though I suspect some situations may be less detailed than in the original edition. I felt that Jeanne Theoharis presented the information in this book objectively, except for perhaps a few parts near the end. I recommend this book to ages 12+ and I expect that we will use it as a resource in our homeschool program once my daughters reach middle school. Excellent book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this product via the Amazon Vine program. All opinions in this review are my own.


  1. Nice review, I have so much admiration for Rosa Parks.