Lillian's Right to Vote by Jonah Winter Book Review

Lillian's Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Jonah Winter
Illustrations by Shane W. Evans
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade
Release Date: July 14, 2015

An elderly African American woman, en route to vote, remembers her family’s tumultuous voting history in this picture book publishing in time for the fiftieth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. As Lillian, a one-hundred-year-old African American woman, makes a “long haul up a steep hill” to her polling place, she sees more than trees and sky—she sees her family’s history. She sees the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment and her great-grandfather voting for the first time. She sees her parents trying to register to vote. And she sees herself marching in a protest from Selma to Montgomery. This is about one woman's fierce determination to make it up the hill and make her voice heard.

I wish I could have posted this review on the actual 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, but alas I am a few weeks late. What an extraordinary book. Beautiful in its illustrations and words, Lillian is the embodiment of a movement that spanned a century and more. She remembers her mother, the struggle, women earning the right to vote, the tests, the ridicule, and the pain that were the benchmarks of her life. Moments intertwining in memory as she makes her slow march up a hill. 

It is books like this that remind me of why it is so important to vote, because the right to do so wasn't always a thing. It wasn't for those who had been enslaved. It wasn't for women. It wasn't for so many people. The privilege is important, even when it feels like your vote doesn't count. Although I cannot possibly understand the struggle that many African-Americans went through to earn this right, I am so pleased that we are celebrating the 50th Anniversary that marks it.