1. “God’s warriors don’t cry.”
Grandma India says this to Melba in Chapter 6 after Melba cries in front of her. Melba is crying because her family, fearing that she will be the target of an attack, has forbidden her from attending a wrestling match. But Melba had planned to meet Vince, the boy she has a crush on, at the wrestling match. When her grandmother tells her she can’t come to the matches, Melba feels like every part of her life has been taken away from her. Grandma India lets Melba cry for a bit and then tells her she can never cry again. Grandma India explains to Melba, for the first time, that what she is doing is greater than just going to high school for a year. Melba is fighting a battle, and the battle is for the future of black people in the United States. She is fighting God’s war. Grandma India sounds cruel when she tells Melba to stop crying, but her point is that Melba has to learn to accept pain. If Melba is going to have any chance of surviving her year at Central, she is going to have to learn how to be tougher than the average teenager.
This quotation also reflects the war that is being waged all across the country, not just at Central High School. Melba and similar individuals are soldiers at the front of a very dangerous battle. Yet in spite of these dangers, Melba and the other black students at Little Rock persist. The struggle entails more than one person’s desire to go to a better high school or eat at a better diner or ride in the front of the bus. Melba’s struggle is a quest to improve the lives of black people all over the country. Melba’s participation in this quest is why her grandmother calls her one of God’s warriors.