In the Neighborhood of True

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A powerful story of love, identity, and the price of fitting in or speaking out.

“The story may be set in the past, but it couldn’t be a more timely reminder that true courage comes not from fitting in, but from purposefully standing out . . . and that to find out who you really are, you have to first figure out what you’re not.” —Jodi Picoult, New York Timesbestselling author of A Spark of Light and Small Great Things

After her father’s death, Ruth Robb and her family transplant themselves in the summer of 1958 from New York City to Atlanta—the land of debutantes, sweet tea, and the Ku Klux Klan. In her new hometown, Ruth quickly figures out she can be Jewish or she can be popular, but she can’t be both. Eager to fit in with the blond girls in the “pastel posse,” Ruth decides to hide her religion. Before she knows it, she is falling for the handsome and charming Davis and sipping Cokes with him and his friends at the all-white, all-Christian Club.

Does it matter that Ruth’s mother makes her attend services at the local synagogue every week? Not as long as nobody outside her family knows the truth. At temple Ruth meets Max, who is serious and intense about the fight for social justice, and now she is caught between two worlds, two religions, and two boys. But when a violent hate crime brings the different parts of Ruth’s life into sharp conflict, she will have to choose between all she’s come to love about her new life and standing up for what she believes.--from the publisher

320 pages           9781616208608             Ages 14 and up

Keywords:  prejudice, Jewish, discrimination, religion, violence, the South, dating, romance, politics, racism, injustice

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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.

Recommended by:  Pamela Thompson McLeod, blogger, reviewer, literary intern, writer, life long YA librarian, Texas, USA

See more of her recommendations:  http://booksbypamelathompson.blogspot.com/

 

 

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