Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Racial Discrimination - 5 novels

In support of the United Nation's International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, I offer up five novels that deal with the topic of racial discrimination.

Mudbound: a novel
by Hilary Jordan

“Jordan's beautiful debut (winner of the 2006 Bellwether Prize for literature of social responsibility) carries echoes of [William Faulkner's] As I Lay Dying, complete with shifts in narrative voice, a body needing burial, flood and more. In 1946, Laura McAllan, a college-educated Memphis schoolteacher, becomes a reluctant farmer's wife when her husband, Henry, buys a farm on the Mississippi Delta, a farm she aptly nicknames Mudbound. Laura has difficulty adjusting to life without electricity, indoor plumbing, readily accessible medical care for her two children and, worst of all, life with her live-in misogynous, racist, father-in-law. Her days become easier after Florence, the wife of Hap Jackson, one of their black tenants, becomes more important to Laura as companion than as hired help..." - Publisher's Weekly

The Moon Looked Down
by Dorothy Garlock

“In 1933 the Heller family escapes Nazi Germany and settles in the idyllic rural community of Victory, Illinois. They make new friends and work hard to make their farm prosper. Then World War II breaks out, and all Germans are labeled enemies of America. It doesn't matter that the Hellers are Jewish refugees. Angry men, their faces obscured by hoods, converge on the Heller farm, burning the barn and brutally beating Mr. Heller. Daughter Sophie tries to protect her father, making herself another easy target. Cole Ambrose's father blames him for his mother's death; hampered by his club foot, Cole couldn't get help fast enough when she slipped and fell. Now, despite his father's disdain, Cole is back from college, ready to begin work as a teacher. Sophie and Cole fall for each other, but the road ahead is rocky. In her newest emotional, historically rich novel, Garlock shows how hatred and prejudice can poison any community.” -Booklist

The Turnaround: a novel (M)
by George Pelecanos

“Starred Review. In yet another gem of urban noir, bestseller Pelecanos (The Night Gardener) explores the possibility of making the turnaround, of starting over and building a new life, regardless of the past. One summer day in 1972, three teenage white boys--Alex Pappas and his friends Billy Cachoris and Pete Whitten--drive into a poor Washington, D.C., neighborhood, high on booze and weed, looking for trouble. They confront three young black men, Billy winds up dead and Alex badly beaten. In 2007, Alex runs the family coffee shop, as did his father, and grieves for his son, recently killed in Iraq. Then, one of the black survivors of the incident contacts Alex, opening a door that may finally put the trauma of the past to rest. At the same time, another survivor, the man who beat Alex, has gotten out of prison and has extortion on his mind. The result is a beautifully written and thought-provoking novel of crime, friendship, aging and redemption.” - Publisher’s Weekly

Wingshooters: a novel (M)
by Nina Revoyr

“Small towns are perhaps not famous for readily accepting outsiders, a lesson Michelle LeBeau, the protagonist of Revoyr's keen new novel, learns firsthand. Ten-year-old Michelle is the child of a Japanese mother who abandoned her husband and daughter and a father who was too busy chasing dreams to raise his daughter. Upon her arrival in 1973 Deerhorn, Wis., where she is to live with her grandparents, she becomes the first nonwhite in town, and thus a convenient target for taunting and bullying. Luckily, she has as adoring grand-father, Charlie LeBeau, and grandmother to sustain her and provide a firm family foundation.

But when a young black couple, the Garretts, move to town-she a nurse, he a teacher-the town's sizable population of bigots make it clear the Garretts aren't welcome, the resentment peaking with a cascade of tragedies that have a big impact on Michelle's life. "The hardest thing about suffering a terrible loss is that you usually survive it," Michelle says, and Revoyr does a remarkable job of conveying Michelle's lost innocence and fear throughout this accomplished story of family and the dangers of complacency in the face of questionable justice.” - Booklist

Five Smooth Stones (M)
by Ann Fairbairn

“This gripping bestseller, first published in 1966, has continued to captivate readers with its wide-ranging yet intimate portrait of an America sundered by racial conflict. David Champlin is a black man born into poverty in Depression-era New Orleans who makes his way up the ladder of success, only to sacrifice everything to lead his people in the civil rights movement. Sara Kent is the white girl who loves David from the moment she first sees him, and who struggles against his belief that a marriage for them would be wrong in the violent world he has to confront. And the "five smooth stones" are those the biblical David carried against Goliath. By the time this novel comes to its climax of horror, bloodshed, and hope, readers will be convinced that its enduring popularity is fully justified.” -Publisher

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