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by Donna Hill

Pub Date: Nov. 24th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-64063-829-7
Publisher: Sideways Books

A novel set in Harlem during the early 1960s explores competing factions in the civil rights movement.

Jason Tanner has just made a momentous decision. Sitting at a table in Atlanta’s Paschal’s Restaurant with the major leaders of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolent protest campaign—including a young man named John Lewis, who would become a civil rights icon— Jason volunteers to set up a grassroots outreach storefront in New York City. His parents are not pleased that their eldest child, who had never stepped foot outside of Georgia until he joined King’s march on Washington, D.C., is heading up north to a city filled with danger. Meanwhile, in that very city, Anita Hopkins, born in Brooklyn, is attending a Malcolm X rally. “You don’t have a peaceful revolution. You don’t have a turn-the-cheek revolution. There’s no such thing as a nonviolent revolution,” he intones. Anita cheers along with the crowd, handing out leaflets and encouraging his supporters. In September 1963, Jason boards the bus from Atlanta to New York. As passengers disembark at a Philadelphia rest stop, he strikes up a conversation with a beautiful young woman sitting across the aisle. And so the “do-gooder” Georgia boy meets the fiery, street-wise city girl. Their first encounter does not end well. Hill’s enjoyable, well-paced, and deftly structured novel, which features historical photographs, is filled with musical allusions, including a Christmas Motown spectacular at the Apollo Theater. Her descriptions of the sights, aromas, and tempo of Harlem—the ’60s Northern Black cultural and intellectual center—in all its diversity, are vivid and reflected through two strong, fully drawn protagonists. They are opposite sides of a coin—he is shy and uncertain about his future in New York; she is an exuberant poet with a beautiful voice. He is gentle, speaking in a soft Southern cadence; she is passionate and edgy. He is a pacifist; she is a militant. But the vibrancy of Harlem, the excitement of listening to Anita read her poetry at the B-Flat nightclub, and a magnetic connection that keeps each in the other’s thoughts eventually work their magic in this powerful tale.

A captivating and skillfully constructed weaving of history and romantic drama.