A Jim Crow–era tale of young love, faith, and perseverance.
Humble (The Scribe and the Sword, 2013) tells the story of Michael Hunter, a teenager who spends his time dreaming of learning to fly planes instead of focusing on school, friends, or church. His head-in-the-clouds attitude causes him to run afoul of his parents and classmates, including a group of local bullies. These tensions come to a head when he begins a relationship with his long-term crush, Karen. A chance, noisy encounter in the bushes between the two teenagers causes rumors to fly (“Sounded like some serious doings there….You two making out?”), and Michael finds himself at the receiving end of speculations and violence that tear his family and their small town apart and threaten his flying dreams. Michael, who is white, also receives scrutiny for associating with his African-American classmates. Humble addresses the racial tensions of the time and ably shows the effects of segregation, but this thread feels like it could be developed further. In addition, several uncomfortable racial and gender stereotypes appear in the text; e.g., Kim, a Korean man at an airfield, speaks in awkwardly broken English (“You leave now or Kim give you final lesson in martial arts, you no soon forget”), and Michael worries at one point that Karen “must be hysterical.” While Humble’s heart is clearly in the right place, these dated characterizations undermine the storytelling. And readers may balk at leaden lines like “Michael did not usually play sports and he was self conscious of his lack of skill.” The portrayal of Michael’s conflict is strong, however, as is the depiction of the consequences of his decisions.
A well-intentioned but dated effort.