An often powerful novel about courage and integrity in the face of hate.

ARKANSAS SUMMER

LOVE AND TERROR IN THE JIM CROW SOUTH

In this gripping novel of romance and social consciousness, a white California teenager encounters the effects of racial prejudice in the segregated South of the 1950s.

In 1986 Los Angeles, Hannah Ross is devastated by the death of her father, but her world is turned upside down when her mother, Catherine, decides to share some long-buried family history. Most of the novel that follows takes place in the summer of 1955, as Catherine, a teenage college student, accompanies her father, Ben, to his childhood home in Arkansas to help her recently widowed grandmother, Mama Rae. Ben hasn’t visited the South in more than a decade, largely due to a desire to protect his children from their grandfather’s racist attitudes. The casual cruelty of whites in the Jim Crow South comes as a shock to Catherine, and she soon draws attention for her refusal to participate in it. She also finds herself irresistibly drawn to Jimmy Emerson, the college-aged African-American son of her grandmother’s housekeeper, Sally; he’d been her playmate during past childhood visits to her grandparents’ farm. Despite Ben’s, Mama Rae’s, and Sally’s warnings, they pursue their youthful attraction, and the life-shattering consequences will have repercussions for generations. Moose (Berkeley U.S.A., 1981, etc.) is a compelling storyteller, and this one unfolds with page-turning urgency as she paints a convincingly chilling portrait of white supremacy in a small Southern town. However, some of the characters here seem a bit too good to be true, while others are mere caricatures of evil, so readers looking for a more nuanced cultural study may be disappointed. Even so, readers will genuinely care about Catherine, Jimmy, and their families; the transformation of Mama Rae after her husband’s death is a delight, and the ending is satisfying without tying up its loose ends too neatly. A thoughtful “Author’s Note” with suggested reading about the Jim Crow South follows the text.

An often powerful novel about courage and integrity in the face of hate.

Pub Date: April 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9785232-6-8

Page Count: 308

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2017

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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