Being Clem

Holiday House. (Finding Langston Trilogy: Bk. 3). Aug. 2021. 256p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780823446049.
Gr 3-7–This third and final novel in the “Finding Langston” trilogy continues the historical fiction narrative of three boys during World War II. Set in Chicago, this installment follows Clemson Thurber, Jr, who along with his mother and two sisters, navigates life after the Port Chicago Disaster in San Francisco. The catastrophe killed 320 Navy sailors, including Clem’s father. Although Clem doesn’t remember much about his father, who was a career sailor, he feels obligated to live up to his legacy. He was a strong man and a robust swimmer, whereas Clem is afraid to even get into the water. Clem is very intelligent, even skipping a grade, but his identity is tied to making his family proud. He begins a friendship with Lymon, a new kid who isn’t afraid of anything. As Lymon gets a bit too carried away with his bullying and picks on another new kid, Langston, Clem is forced to choose between his old friend and this new boy who seems to understand him more than anyone else. Cline-Ransome skillfully brings the era of 1944 middle America to life, giving readers a glimpse of an often neglected part of history—growing up Black through the segregation and discrimination in the North during this time period. Cline-Ransome’s Clem faces these challenges while, struggling to find his own path and reconcile his need to live up to his father’s legacy. Readers will identify with Clem’s struggles and come to like him for the exceptional young man he is: a devoted son and brother, and a true friend.
VERDICT Exceptional characters and the chance to explore the previous volumes will leave readers wanting more. The historical aspect of the novel encourages further exploration of the era and a greater understanding of race in America during this time. This whole series deserves a place on library shelves everywhere.

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