Life is a balancing act for Ashe whose parents have stayed together only because he was born. Their conflicting opinions of the state of the world in 1968 have pulled them in opposite directions. Ashe is definitely caught in the middle.
Each week Ashe's history teacher posts a number on the chalkboard. It's a number all too familiar to Ashe - the U.S. casualty total from the fighting in Vietnam. Ashe listens to news reports, watches his mother protest the war, and agrees that keeping up his grades so he can go to college and avoid the draft is the best plan. In the midst of the war abroad, the race war is being fought here at home. The events of 1968 include the Black Panther movement, the protests and assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the assassination of Bobby Kennedy.
Ashe is pulled in yet another direction when he meets Angela. Her brother is fighting in Vietnam but hasn't been heard from in months. Ashe sees the strain it puts on Angela and her family as they wait to hear if he will be reported dead, a captured POW, or MIA. He'd love to introduce Angela to his parents, but since racism is yet another divisive issue between his parents, he must keep his relationship with Angela to himself.
Author Chris Crowe uses a unique and challenging format for his tale. DEATH COMING UP THE HILL is told in narrative haiku. The spare language is precise and powerful. Readers should be sure to read the Historical and Author's Notes at the end to fully appreciate the complex challenge Crowe faced in creating this amazing work.
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