Were some of the people in the book real? YES!
In My Year in the Middle, you will find three people who were honest-to-goodness public figures. Each plays an important part in the story, for good or for bad. Here is a bit more information about them.
MADELINE MANNING is Lu’s imaginary running coach. She comes to Lu’s attention during the televised broadcast of the 1968 Olympics, which took place in Mexico City. That’s where Ms. Manning won the gold in the 800-meter race, outrunning her opponents by over 10 meters—which is a lot! During her running career, Ms. Manning held 10 national titles in indoor and outdoor middle-distance track events, setting numerous U.S. records. She returned to the Olympics twice more, winning a silver medal in 1972. In 1984, she was inducted into the US Track and Field Hall of Fame—well deserved, I’d say! See more here.
GEORGE WALLACE served four terms as governor of Alabama, beginning in 1963. He was a fervent opponent of racial integration and civil rights advances for people of color. During his first term in office, two black students attempted to register at The University of Alabama, but Wallace stood in the doorway of the registration hall, blocking their access. In 1965, during a massive voter registration drive, Wallace ordered state troopers to stop a protest march by hundreds of black citizens in Selma, Alabama. The troopers used tear gas, police dogs, clubs and fire hoses to terrorize and intimidate the crowd. In later years, Wallace issued apologies for these actions to Alabama’s black citizens. He ran for president of the United States four times. In 1972, during a national campaign stop, a gunman wounded him, paralyzing the governor from the waist down. He spent the remainder of his life in a wheelchair. Learn more from his Washington Post obituary.
ALBERT BREWER served as the 47th governor of Alabama. In May 1968, when Gov. Lurleen Wallace (wife of George Wallace) died in office, then-Lt. Governor Albert Brewer was sworn in as her replacement. As governor, Brewer tried to put Alabama’s racist practices in the past. He emphasized higher education and ethics, working to reduce government waste and cronyism. By today’s standards, Brewer’s brief term in office would not be considered especially progressive, but in that era he stood out as a symbol of the so-called New South. The New South sought to distance itself from the ugly reputation established under Wallace and other racist governors of southern states. My Year in the Middle portrays some of the nasty politics that Brewer endured during the 1970 gubernatorial campaign. I’d like readers to know that these dirty tricks are not fictional. They are a historical fact. After leaving politics, Brewer went on to a distinguished career as a professor of law and government at Samford University, in Birmingham, Alabama. Following his death in 2017, the website Al.com published this extensive article.
Do you like music? I hope so–I love it, and Lu definitely does!
Here’s a playlist of songs mentioned in the book. They include music she hears on the radio or on stereos, as well as songs performed by Lu’s papá. They are listed in order of their first mention in the book. Where possible, I added the name of the original recording artist, or of a musician who I feel does justice to the song. Most can be found on music streaming services. Look them up and have a listen—you may even be inspired to dance!
Chapter 10 Guantanamera—Many artists have recorded this immensely popular Cuban song, which is based on a famous poem by the Cuban patriot José Martí. Try out a recording by Celia Cruz, or track down the Playing for Change video that features multiple artists from around the world.
Brown-Eyed Girl—by Van Morrison
Somebody to Love—by Jefferson Airplane
Stand!—by Sly and the Family Stone
Chapter 18 Kicks—by Paul Revere and the Raiders
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (the album)—by The Beatles
Chapter 30 Besame Mucho—This is another widely covered tune. I like Andrea Bocelli’s interpretation. For one thing, he may be Italian, but his Spanish is perfect!
Chapter 35 Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud—by James Brown
Chapter 36 Psychedelic Shack—by The Temptations
I Want You Back—by The Jackson 5
Chapter 39 Argentine tango music—While the book doesn’t specify a particular song, you can get the idea of traditional tango by listening to any of three of the most popular numbers. They are Volver, Adios Muchachos, and Caminito. They have been recorded many, many times. Look them up!
Chapter 43 Mony Mony—by Tommy James & the Shondells
Sugar, Sugar—by the Archies
Backfield in Motion—by Mel & Tim
Chapter 44 Crystal Blue Persuasion—by Tommy James & the Shondells
Chapter 45 Hooked on a Feeling—by B.J. Thomas
Crimson and Clover—by Tommy James & the Shondells
Suppose you were to write a story about YOUR life. What type of music would be on your playlist? I’d love to know, so leave me a comment!
TEACHERS and LIBRARIANS: Here is the link to Candlewick’s beautiful discussion guide. Hint: to access the PDF, follow the link and click a second time on the small gray title. DiscussionGuideMyYear