Hi, everyone, and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for In the Neighborhood of True! As an Atlantan, this historical fiction YA set in Atlanta in the 1950’s meant a whole lot to me, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.
In the Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton
Published by Algonquin Young Readers on April 9, 2019
Genres: Historical, Young Adult
Goodreads • Amazon • B&N • Book Depository
A powerful story of love, identity, and the price of fitting in or speaking out.
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.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Wow, this was such a pleasant surprise, and so timely. I picked up an ARC of this one at ALAMW after seeing that it was historical fiction set in Atlanta in the 1950’s, and this did not disappoint. As others have said, it was so nice to read historical fiction with a Jewish main character (#ownvoices rep) that is not set during the Holocaust.
Though set in the past, In the Neighborhood of True deals with themes that are, unfortunately, all too timely. I originally picked this up because of the setting, and as a lifelong Atlantan who is the child, grandchild, and great-grandchild of lifelong Atlantans, I thought this book perfectly captured the duality of Atlanta during the twentieth century (and maybe still today)— it succeeded in celebrating the beauty of the city while unabashedly critiquing its incredibly ugly history of racism, anti-Semitism, injustice, and hatred. The city’s history of mistreatment of people of color is fairly well-known information, but many people might not know about Atlanta’s shameful anti-Semitic history– this book was inspired by a true event, the Atlanta Temple Bombing of 1959. There is also discussion of the lynching of Leo Frank, a Jewish factory worker wrongly accused of a crime in 1913.
Ruth, as a a New Yorker who has recently moved to the South with her family, was the perfect main character to follow, because we got to see some of the backwards Southern customs of this time period from an outsider’s perspective. The glamour of the pre-debutante scene forms a stark contrast with the ugly reality of the lynchings, cross burnings, KKK rallies, and Confederate monuments in Georgia during this period.
I was hesitant going into this one, because I worried the focus on the Jewish community here in Atlanta in the 1950’s would omit the struggle of black Atlantans during the Civil Rights era. However, I thought the author handled this pretty well. This story shows how, not only did Jewish people in Atlanta face their own kinds of discrimination, but also how the Jewish community here was often engaged in the fight for equal rights for all Americans (without making this into a white savior story– in fact, Ruth is immediately shot down for this line of thinking at one point). However, I do wish that there had been discussion around the fact that Ruth, our main character, hides her Jewish identity and “passes” around her new debutante friends, but Ruth’s black counterparts don’t have the luxury of passing. Definitely some missed opportunities for discussions around privilege. (I should note that I am neither Jewish nor black and can’t personally speak to the quality of this representation on either front.)
Above all, In the Neighborhood of True is a coming-of-age story. It’s about a 16-year-old girl who just wants to think about dresses and boys and swimming in the pool, but because of her marginalized identity, she does not always have that luxury. This theme definitely rings true today.
Overall, In the Neighborhood of True is a book I think will stick with me for quite some time, and I highly recommend picking it up this spring.
follow the tour!
Prize: Win (1) of (2) copies of In the Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton (US Only)
Starts: 3rd April 2019
Ends: 16th April 2019
Have you read In the Neighborhood of True? Have you ever read a historical fiction book set where you live?