SHUMWAY by Ronald Messer


Email this review


Innocent but observant in his energetic, unreflective way, Shumway tells about growing up in South Carolina with his friends, who include bigmouth Dennis Robinson and, especially, Lyle who has to sit in the balcony at the movies even though this is set not all that long ago (late '50's?). At first Shumway is a little disturbed when the others all side against Lyle in a bow-and-arrow contest, but a little later he's amazed that he can't beat up five of Lyle's friends in one tussle--""I had always heard that one white boy could whip ten niggers with one hand tied behind his back."" The racial ugliness mounts. Shortly after Lyle and Shumway mix blood and swear friendship forever, Shumway is pressured by Dennis and others--the real culprits--into blaming a stadium fire on Lyle. Shumway's solution is to share the blame with him, not understanding his friend's insistence that ""maybe they won't do anything to you, cause you white, but you don't know how it is to be a nigger."" Later in a roaring drunken climax (not as comic as perhaps intended but just as fearsome) the Klan goes after Lyle's grandfather; Shumway runs to warn the family but there are more misunderstandings. In the end the boys are sho' 'nuf friends again, but more convincing--even joltingly so--are those moments when out of shame or fear the white boy betrays his friend (feeling all the while like a yellow-bellied grubworm). . . and those stretches when the black one acts like he doesn't want to have anything to do with Shumway. A personal, idiomatic, demonstration of the difficulties of growing up true.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1975
Publisher: Nelson