by Taylor Kitchings
Yard War is a coming-of-age story in the heart of the South during the 1960s, set in Jackson, Mississippi. Reading this book, there is such a sense of place and atmosphere, due to the fact that the author, Taylor Kitchings, is a Jackson native. Jackson is a place its natives can’t ever seem to fully disentangle themselves from. They may leave, but there is always that pull to return home, and in Yard War, Kitchings explores why we stay in a place like Jackson. His novel, Yard War, may be targeted to the twelve-and-up crowd, but if you have ever lived in Jackson at one point in your life, you would be remiss in not reading this book.
The book’s main character, Trip Westbrook, is like most twelve-year-old boys in Jackson in the 1960s. He loves football, there are Sunday lunches with Meemaw and Papaw, and he’s looking forward to starting Junior High. His world, much like the front lawn where he plays football is pristine. When he invites Dee, the maid’s son, to throw the football on the front lawn, the neighbors aren’t happy because it’s a sign that integration is alive and well. While Trip says “I tell you what, I want a guy with an arm like that on my team. I don’t care if he’s black, white, or purple,” this seemingly innocent game creates trouble for the Westbrook family.
Should the Westbrooks leave town or should they stay? A story of family ties and fighting for what you believe in, Yard War is full of hilarity, moments of heartbreak, and will have you rooting for the good guys. This novel is relevant in that it explores Jackson’s past, present, and future. While this book shows reasons that might make a person leave Jackson, it also encompasses all the good parts that will make one want to stay. As Dr. Westbrook tells his son, Trip:
It’s like one day God took the best of what’s good and the worst of what’s bad, stirred it all up, and dumped it between Memphis and New Orleans. You can’t move away from a place like that. You have to help keep the good in the mix.
Yard War reinforces the truth about humanity with a football game: sometimes it seems as if the Goliaths will be the winners, but as Trip reminds the readers, “The good guys won here today. They just might win tomorrow.”