Radical Red


Book: Radical Red

Author: James Duffy 

Jacket Illustrator: Stephen Marchesi

Publisher: Atheneum Books, 1993

ISBN-13: 978-0684195339

ISBN-10: 068419533X

Website(s): http://www.SimonSaysKids.com (publisher)

Language level:  3

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Said to be for ages ‏9 – 13; I would say more for ages 12-16.

Rating: **** 4 stars

(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)

Category: Historical fiction

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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     Duffy, James.  Radical Red (Published in 1993vby Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, a division of Simon and Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York City, NY  10020).  It is 1894, and twelve-year-old Connor O’Shea lives in Albany, NY, with her Irish immigrant parents, father Donal who is a capitol policeman, and mother Nora who is a washer woman.  Susan B. Anthony is in town to convince the state constitutional convention that women should be entitled to vote.  Connor meets Miss Bertha Hall, one of “Aunt Susan’s girls,” becomes interested in the women’s suffrage movement, and even convinces her mother to get involved.  However, her father is quite reactionary, relying on his friend Senator Phelan to guide him, and becomes increasingly abusive when his wife and daughter disagree with his views.

     What happens between Connor and her father?  How does Mrs. O’Shea react?  And will women get the right to vote that year?  This is a gripping story of women’s rights.  A few terms like “O Lord” and “Good Lord” are used as interjections.  While I am sure that there were many antagonistic fathers and husbands like Donal, a subplot of unresolved family conflict is always a source of sadness.  As the reviewer for School Library Journal noted, an author’s note telling readers who was real and who was not, what Duffy’s sources were, and what happened afterward would be very helpful.  But the book does a good job of portraying what it was like to be an immigrant wife imprisoned in an arranged marriage far from home and what it was like to grow up female at the time.

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