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Ringside, 1925: Views from the Scopes Trial    by Jen Bryant order for
Ringside, 1925
by Jen Bryant
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

With the battle against teaching evolution still raging in some states, literature featuring the Scopes Monkey Trail has been popping up recently in various forms, Jen Bryant's Ringside, 1925 being one such instance.

The school board of Dayton, Tennessee has decided to take science teacher J. T. Scopes to trial for violating the Butler Act which states that no one can teach a 'theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man, as taught in the Bible.' However, they are not so much against Scopes and evolution as they are for bringing tourists to Dayton in a time of recession. The town gets its wish as two high-profile attorneys, plenty of journalists, and various curiosity seekers come to watch the trial. As the trial travels towards its famous climax, emotions mount among the residents of Dayton and some of the visitors, as they question their own and others' beliefs.

Ringside, 1925 does not focus on the main players in the Scopes Monkey Trial. Instead, it displays the emotions of fictional characters who live in, or are visiting, Dayton. To further the emotional mood of the novel and better convey it to readers, Bryant has chosen to write the entire story in verse. She displays her talent as a poet by having each character's narratives take a specific form of poetry, and mixing in other poetic conventions as the mood fits. This makes for a unique and emotionally-charged read that will help readers understand what was going on in this pivotal case back in 1925.

Ringside, 1925 by Jen Bryant makes an excellent read. One, the poetry makes it an easy and fast read, but two, it is also a very educational novel. This would be a great addition to any middle-school or high-school curriculum or summer-reading list.

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