Out of Darkness
Written by Ashley Hope Pérez
“This is East Texas, and there’s lines. Lines you cross, lines you don’t cross. That clear?” New London, Texas. 1937. Naomi Vargas and Wash Fuller know about the lines in East Texas as well as anyone. They know the signs that mark them. They know the people who enforce them. But sometimes the attraction between two people is so powerful it breaks through even the most entrenched color lines. And the consequences can be explosive. Ashley Hope Perez takes the facts of the 1937 New London school explosion–the worst school disaster in American history–as a backdrop for a riveting novel about segregation, love, family, and the forces that destroy people.
Primary Source Pairing:
Out of Darkness is about so much more than the New London school explosion in 1937. The story takes place in a time of extreme segregation in a place that is ever changing as new people regularly arrive to work the oil wells. Naomi and the twins are thrust into this community when Henry feels called to play a larger role as a father to the twins. While the school explosion tears apart the community of New London, it also tears apart the lives of Naomi, the twins, and Wash. For this primary source pairing, invite students to watch a newsreel from 1937 about the New London. Begin the discussion on how news was disseminated during that time and how this newsreel would be different if this disaster happened today.
Alternatively, begin a dialogue with students about the segregation present in this book. Use these primary source sets from the Library of Congress as a starting point:
- Jim Crow and Segregation Primary Source Set from The Library of Congress
- The NAACP: A Century in the Fight for Freedom Primary Source Set from The Library of Congress
Questions for Discussion:
- Describe what you see and hear.
- What do you notice first?
- Do you only see live action, or are there any special effects or animation?
- Describe any words you see on the screen.
- What do you notice about the length of the newsreel?
- Does anything about it seem strange or unusual?
- What other details do you notice?
- Who are the people who appear in it?
- What tools and materials were used to create it?
- Who do you think was the intended audience?
- What feelings or ideas do you think its creators wanted to communicate?
- If someone created this newsreel today, what would be different?
Book Cover and Summary: Follett
Newsreel about the New London Explosion: Archive.org