Review: I Will Not Fear: My Story of a Lifetime of Building Faith Under Fire by Melba Pattillo Beals

I Will Not Fear: My Story of a Lifetime of Building Faith Under Fire by Melba Pattillo Beals
JD's rating: 5 out of 5 bookmarks

I was not very familiar with the history of the Little Rock Nine nor had I ever heard the name of Melba Pattillo Beals before hearing about this book so I had no idea what to expect when I began to read. As one of the nine African American high school students to be selected to integrate the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957, Melba's story is one of incredible fortitude and resoluteness in the face of adversity. Her memoirs are filled with awful moments of gross injustice, physical attacks, and even death threats yet she chose to never retaliate in like manner. She stood firm and spoke out when necessary, but she didn't resort to the low behaviors of those who would torment (both verbally and physically) her and her family.

At around 200 pages, this is a short book, but it packs a hefty message. Beals begins the narrative with the story of her birth and shares the struggles her mother endured just to simply get hospital care with her difficult pregnancy. She continues her story with highlights from her life—which are told in mostly chronological order—and brings the reader up through current day. While she does spend a few chapters on the events surrounding the integration of the high school in Little Rock, it is not the main focal point of the book and she moves on to focus primarily on her life following that period. (See her other books, Warriors Don’t Cry and March Forward, Girl, for more about her early years in Arkansas.)

Beals' grandmother, "Grandma India", had a great impact on her in her formative days and that influence has stayed with her to this day. Throughout the book, she references anecdotes about her grandmother and recounts conversations and oft-quoted sayings that Grandma India said. A couple of my favorites are:

"Above all else, God loves you. He has your pictures on His refrigerator just as I do."
"Faith is the consistent trust that God is all powerful and always on your side if you need help."

Dr. Melba Pattillo Beals 
At the end of each chapter, Beals includes a sentence or two which sums up the theme of that chapter. It's as if she's giving the reader the takeaway or lesson which can be gleaned from her experiences which she's just recounted. One line which appears at the end of chapter 13 stood out to me. Beals writes, "God is our employer, no matter who we see as our earthly boss. At all times we must be aware that we are serving God in our work."

I Will Not Fear is a gripping story of an incredible woman who stood strong through all sorts of adversity. Reading this firsthand account of the despicable ways she was treated by so many was heartrending, but also encouraging and inspirational because of her attitude and faith and reliance on God through it all.

Visit Dr. Beals website to learn more about her and her books.

J.D. Sutter is the producer and host of the Bookworm Banquet podcast and editor of the blog. He is the founder of Porchlight Family Media.

Disclosure: The publisher provided us with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links.

J.D. Sutter

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