Text Review: Counting on Grace by Elizabeth Winthrop

Counting on Grace: Winthrop, Elizabeth: 9780553487831: Amazon.com: Books

In the novel Counting on Grace by Elizabeth Winthrop, Grace is a 12-year-old girl who must drop out of school to work as a doffer in the mill where her mother works, replacing bobbins when they become full. Grace’s friend Arthur desperately wants to leave the mill, and the two write to the Child Labor Board about the factory conditions they work in. Lewis Hine, a photojournalist, is sent to document the children and befriends Grace. While the writing style is geared towards younger readers, perhaps around middle school age, the themes of the novel fit well with our course concepts. Grace and many other children she knows are from immigrant families and are forced to work dangerous factory jobs to survive. The novel is centered around the depiction of immigrants and children as subaltern. They are forced into dangerous working conditions with no voice or power to improve those conditions. The novel is heartbreaking and eye opening. While child labor exploitation is not an issue we think about in the US very often, it is still a common practice across the world. This injustice is something no children should have to face, and Grace’s story is a compelling argument for why children and adults alike should not have to turn to risky and grueling labor with meager wages to survive. The narration from the viewpoint of a child reminds me of the beginning of Persepolis as young Marji attempts to make sense of the world around her. I think Winthrop sought to inspire conversation in a younger audience about what just labor laws are, how they can come about, and how those in a position of power can use their privilege to help others who need it, such as Lewis Hines using his photojournalism influence to spread the story of the mill and Miss Lesley, Grace’s teacher, using her influence to encourage Grace and Arthur to contact the Child Labor Board. Overall, the novel is full of hope and does a phenomenal job of weaving Grace’s fictional tale with the historical component of child and immigrant labor exploitation in the United States.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *