Wednesday, April 24, 2019

YA Pick: In the Neighborhood of True

In the Neighborhood of True
by Susan Kaplan Carlton
Algonquin
2019
320 pages
ISBN: 9781616208608

Don't be fooled by the pretty pink cover and precious corsage; this pink book is one of the most important books of the year. Set in 1958, the message is timely today: love your neighbors. Don't judge people by the color of their skin, their religion, their family lineage, their financial status or their outward appearance. Judge them by the quality of their character. Sound familiar?


When her father dies suddenly, Ruth's family is forced to leave their urban lives in Manhattan and move to her grandparent's estate in Atlanta. The year is 1958 and race relations are at a boiling point in the South. Ruth is enrolled in an exclusive private school where girls of her privilege are given a genteel education.

Debutante season looms, and fish-out-of-water Ruth finds herself in lessons to learn how to be a Southern lady. No one has asked if Ruth is Jewish, and she never mentions it. Her mother is mortified and accuses Ruth of "passing" as a white deb, not a Jewish girl. Ruth wants to fit in and not cause trouble. Ruth joins the "pastel posse" of debs and hopes to be crowned Magnolia Queen like her mother and grandmother before her.

Ruth meets handsome golden boy Davis Jefferson and accepts an invitation to a dance. Soon she's dating him and falling in love. Everything is wonderful, and Ruth loves her new life.

In the "separate but equal" Jim Crow South, Ruth learns that Negros have to sit in the balcony at the movies and drink from different water fountains. She grew up in Manhattan and has never seen this before although she has to admit in her old neighborhood, she has rarely seen a person of color. The rabbi at her temple wants his congregation to support equality for all people, but  talk of politics and racial tension frighten Ruth.

When her temple is bombed, Ruth discovers Davis was there that night. He swears he had nothing to do with it, but Ruth suspects he's telling, "in the neighborhood of true," a lie. Ruth has a decision to make: embrace her religion and family or deny her background to live a lie. If she doesn't speak up, what kind of person is she?

Readers will love "vintage" details that bring the era to life, and cheer for Ruth as she navigates society and religion. Algonquin has another book winner! In the Neighborhood of True is sure to be on the top of every award list this year! The author does a brilliant job of creating unforgettable characters whose everyday decisions are complex and often unexpected.

Kudos to Susan Kaplan Carlton for bringing history to life and telling a story based on the real life bombing of the Hebrew Benevolent Congregation (The Temple) in Atlanta in 1958. Five suspects were arrested; one went on trial twice, yet all charges were later dropped.

Highly, highly recommended! You MUST read this book. It is amazing. In the Neighborhood of True would be a great whole class read and YA Teen Book Club read.


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