Skip to main content

Book Review: Monkey Town by Ronald Kidd

I just finished reading Monkey Town: The Summer of the Scopes Trial by Ronald Kidd. This was another coming of age novel. It is supposed to be part love story, as well, but the love story is very lightly applied. It is more of an afterthought and seemed like it was there solely to get more girls to read it.

Kidd claims he wrote this book based on the true accounts he heard from Frances Robinson about her life in the town of Dayton during the Scopes Monkey Trials of 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee. He does share that Frances was actually only eight years old when this happened, although in the book, she is portrayed as being 15. He obviously thought this story would appeal more to teens, and he is probably right.

In our story, Frances Robinson is a precocious 15-year old who is in love with Johnny Scopes, a teacher at her high school. Johnny Scopes is one of those young (24 years old), cool teachers who breaks the rules of establishment only to pay for them later. He is a football coach but ends up substituting for a period of time in a biology class. While filling in for the teacher, Scopes decided to cover the topic of evolution (an illegal action in the state of Tennessee at that time) since it was in the official textbook. Frances's father, F.E. Robinson, decides to use this scandal to try to get some publicity for his beloved town. F.E. is a drugstore owner who sells Coca-Cola, claiming the drink has medicinal powers to make more money.

F.E. asks Scopes to go under trial for teaching evolution as a publicity stunt. He promises nothing bad will come out of it. All Scopes has to do is admit he taught evolution, allow himself to go through a fake arrest, and the town will take care of the rest. Scopes agrees.

The publicity comes rolling in all right, but not all of it is positive. Two very famous men end up being the lawyers for both sides. Tons of newspapers send representatives to cover the story. The journalist we get to know the best is H.L Mencken who wrote a lot of derogatory remarks about the townspeople. He considered them yokels. Mencken was a real journalist who attended the trials, and many of his article excerpts are included in between chapters of the book.

Frances is portrayed as a young woman with torn loyalties. On the one hand, she loves Johnny Scopes. She knows he is a good and kind person that she cares for a lot. On the other hand, she has always looked up to her father and all he represents. Now she sees he has faults: he is money hungry. What's worse, he is using the man he she loves to get free publicity. She also begins to questions the faith of her fellow churchgoers. Why are they so sure that evolution is wrong and the Bible is completely right? It seems like everyone is blindly accepting that it should be illegal to teach evolution. Everyone is against Johnny Scopes, and Frances has to decide what she truly believes.

For me, the story had a good pace and kept me reading. I didn't feel too connected to any of the characters. I did enjoy this book for the historical content. The court scenes were taken from transcripts of the actual trials so it was an interesting read in that light. I would recommend this to a middle school girl who needed to read a historical fiction book for school.


Popular posts from this blog

Riley Stearns' The Art of Self-Defense (2019) Movie Review: Do NOT Talk About Night Class

In 1999, David Fincher directed the book to movie Fight Club, a dark stylized comedy about a group of men who form a "support group" of sorts called Fight Club, where they pair up for no holds barred unarmed first fights with one another. Organized by the charismatic Tyler Durden, for a time, the meetings seem to be a good thing. Things start to spiral when the hero realizes Tyler is no good and must be stopped.

In many surface ways, The Art of Self-Defense is quite similar. Casey (Jesse Eisenberg) walks around like he is apologizing for taking up oxygen. He lives alone with his dog and works at a boring, thankless job as an accountant. One day, Jesse is attacked on the street by some unidentified motorcycle riders. He's hospitalized for his wounds and takes some times off work.

On a walk around town, he overhears a karate class and goes into observe. He feels intrigued and inspired by what he sees and decide to sign up for classes. He hopes that he can "become wha…

Ali Abassi's Border (2018): A Dark Swedish Fairy Tale

Have you ever felt like you are alone? Like you exist and move around in a community of people that you are nothing like?

Imagine how Tina feels. She works as a highly competent border guard for the sole reason that her sense of smell is extrasensory. She can smell fear, shame, and any negative emotion on people as they cross through her security area, and she is never wrong about her suspicions. Her work career, however, might be the only thing she has going for her.

She lives on the outskirts of town with a boyfriend that owns a pack of dogs, and from all counts, they live together in a loveless domestic arrangement that is hard to imagine either of them conceiving. Things become a little clearer later as we learn that Tina owns the home and the boyfriend is enjoying the luxury of living rent free. Tina appears to have no family except for the man she calls father, who claims to have adopted her.

Tina is unattractive by human standards and is most often seen staring attentively and …

Alfonso Cuarón's Roma (2018) A Window into the Life of a Working Class Woman

For every person who keeps their hands clean and smooth from doing heavy duty manual labor, there are people who work thanklessly in the background, making life comfortable for those few. This is the subject of Roma, a film set in Mexico City with original screenplay written in Spanish. Roma takes one of those hardworking people and brings her front and center.

Cleo is the housekeeper of a middle-class family in the 1970s. She cleans the house, cleans the dog poo off the house entrance, brings the family tea, and serves them at mealtime. Cleo comes across as diligent, hardworking, sweet, shy, non-demanding, and loving. The children seem to adore her. She is a constant in their lives, and they treat her as one would expect a person who demands or expects nothing in return. At times, she’s like wallpaper. Other times, they are affectionate with her and desire her attention.

There isn’t much plot to this movie. Cleo does have some romantic adventures and deals with an unexpected pregn…