By Larry Dane Brimner. Calkins Creek, 2014. 172 pages. $16.95/hardcover. Recommended for ages 10 and up.Buy on FJ Amazon Store
Amidst growing unrest in the ’60s brought on by the Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam War protests, there was a small strike by Filipino farm workers in Delano, Calif., which went on to become one of the most important agricultural strikes in American history. Led by Larry Itliong, a Filipino immigrant, the strike began in September 1965 and was soon joined by the nascent union of Cesar Chavez, leader of Mexican immigrant farm workers. Chavez later became the most dominant figure of the movement. With strong visual design, political cartoons, period photos, and sidebar quotes in both English and Spanish, Strike! is a compelling nonfiction book that documents the struggles and victories of farm workers against California agribusiness, a relentless fight that spanned five years in order to win collective bargaining rights, better wages, and unionization of agricultural labor.
Strike! tackles a complex topic in a balanced way that will be engrossing for young readers and students interested in modern American history. Offering both praise and critique of Chavez, Brimner also briefly explains the crucial role played by Filipino farm workers whose contribution often goes unnoticed in this important piece of history. He also documents the role of women, including the support they offered and the ways in which they strengthened the movement through leaders such as Dolores Huerta, one of the main organizers of the strikes.
Apart from the vivid visuals, the strength of the book lies largely in its content that is well researched, well structured, and well written. The book offers clear and simple explanations of topics such as nonviolent resistance, tactics of community organizing, roles of religious groups, and the threat of ethnic and racial disintegration among unions in an easy-to-read manner. Brimner summarizes the five-year struggle by providing a timeline of important events at the end of the book. I wish he had also provided an index of the various acronyms in the book, as they can be confusing for the reader to follow. The author’s website includes a teacher’s guide and suggested classroom activities. Between the website and the book, there is a wealth of information available to the reader. It is not an effortless read, but it is well worth the time.