Happy Monday book lovers!
Excited to share with you today my review for this little gem of a book that is so much more than a YA novel! It is a book that made me think of how far we’ve come, but how far we still need to go! It is so unfortunate that today we still have so much hate penetrating our society. A big thank you to Brittanie from Algonquin for providing me with a copy and asking me to participate in the blog tour!💕
”When hatred shows its face you need to make a little ruckus. And you dear Ruthie, you made a very important little ruckus.”
Susan Kaplan Carlton has written a compelling story that is loosely based on the 1958 Atlanta temple bombing. My mom was a northerner who moved to the south in the 1950s. I remember her telling me stories of colored water fountains and standing up for Land of Dixie, of debutante balls and sweet tea. It always seems so different from my own upbringing in the melting pot of Southern California. So I can only imagine how different it was for Ruth from New York city. Throw in the fact that she was also Jewish, and I think the girl must have gone through some major culture shock. I will never truly understand hate, it is just something I’ve never had in my heart. What is unfortunate is even though this book was set 60 years ago it is still relevant today. I like to believe that most people are extremely accepting of all people, but there are those few that just can’t seem to let go of the hate and the anger. I probably could go on anon, but I will spare you all!
Ruth is a junior in high school who finds herself in the deep south after the death of her father. The world of pastels and blondes is a far cry from NYC, and Ruth realizes real quick that she cannot be both Jewish and popular. Soon Ruth finds herself ensconced in the debutante world, trying on dresses, attending parties, and striving to be the Magnolia queen. And there is a boy, named Davis Jefferson no less. But is Ruth being true to herself pretending she is something she’s not? And what happens when the unthinkable happens and Ruth is caught between two worlds?
I found Ruth tremendously relatable and likable. I got her, I would have done exactly what she did at her age in her situation. She was all about friendship, and fashion, and fitting in. The romance between Ruth and Davis was so sweet and adorable, yes it was a little Insta but they are teenagers, seems to happen that way quite a bit. I also really liked Ruth’s mother and Ruth’s relationship with her mother. Her mother was strong and a bit righteous, but she let Ruth do her thing. Fontaine Ruth’s grandma was such an authentic character, I truly think she represented how her generation in the south saw things. She herself didn’t feel as though she hated anyone, however she didn’t think anything needed to change either, in fact she felt as though she supported Jewish people because she shopped at a department store owned by Jewish people. I also appreciated that she did not have some major epiphany and completely change how she felt. My only tiny complaint is I wish that the bombing took place a little earlier in the book, so we could really see how the conflict resolved itself.
A riveting and important story that I strongly encourage everyone to pick up!
*** A huge thank you to Algonquin for my copy of this book ***
About the Book
“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 Times bestselling author of A Spark of Light and Small Great Things
IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF TRUE
by SUSAN KAPLAN CARLTON
“Every character is memorable and complex, and the plot quickly becomes engrossing…the characters’ moral decisions are so complicated and so surprising that many people will be kept spellbound by even the tiniest detail. Riveting.”
“Carlton does an excellent job of mixing the personal with the historical here…Ruth crisply relays her conflicted feelings, the tense situations, and characters who are well shaded and occasionally surprising.”
“A gorgeous story about a teenage girl finding her voice in the face of hate, heartbreak, and injustice.”
— Nova Ren Suma, #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Room Away from the Wolves
“Susan Kaplan Carlton’s snapshot of 1958 Atlanta is both exquisite and harrowing, and I will hold it in my heart for a long time.”
—Rachel Lynn Solomon, author of You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone and Our Year of Maybe
“You might not think a book set in 1959 could feel wildly relevant, but wow does this YA set in Atlanta that explores anti-Semitism in the south during the Civil Rights era feel incredibly on point after the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.”
—Barnes & Noble Teen Blog
“While it’s not wrong to say that historical fiction can be a great genre to read when you want to take a break from current events, these books can also be a gateway to re-examining and understanding the many ways that history can repeat itself unless people make meaningful, positive change happen. Susan Kaplan Carlton’s debut, In The Neighborhood of True, is a combination of both: romantic escapism brushes against harsh truths about discrimination and violence.”
When Susan Kaplan Carlton began to write In the Neighborhood of True (publication date: April 9, 2019; $17.95), she was inspired by historic events that had taken place in a synagogue where her family once worshipped. She never imagined that news in 2017 and 2018 would lend new relevance to the violent anti-Semitism she addresses in her YA novel. Partly inspired by the Atlanta temple bombing of 1958, In the Neighborhood of True is the thoughtful and provoking story of Ruth Robb, a young woman trying to fit in to the “in” crowd in her new hometown by hiding her Jewish heritage. Susan Kaplan Carlton’s past historical YA novels have been praised for their “believable, rich, likable characters” (Kirkus Reviews) and “important” (Booklist) topics relevant to teens’ lives. In this novel of the 50s Jim Crow South, Kaplan Carlton’s gorgeous prose invokes a time filled with sweet tea and debutante balls as well as cross burnings and hate crimes.
In the sweltering summer of 1958, Ruth Robb and her family move to Atlanta from New York City after the sudden death of her father. A fish out of water and grieving, Ruth meets the ruling “pastel posse” and their little pink book of manners. She quickly falls for the charming and popular Davis, who teaches her about football games and the Country Club, and is the perfect escort. Eager to fit in and to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a debutante, Ruth hides her Jewish heritage and her attendance at Sabbath services in a segregated Atlanta. Then a hate crime tears apart her community, and Ruth is forced to confront the prejudice head on and speak up about injustice.
Carlton’s family attended services at the Hebrew Benevolent Society, Atlanta’s oldest synagogue and a center for early civil rights advocacy, in the early 2000s. She says that watching her younger daughter volunteer “in one of the classrooms that had been bombed years before… stayed with me—the idea that the walls that held these kids had once been blown apart by white supremacists…it became really important to me to write this book about a girl who comes to do the right thing even when it’s hard and heartbreaking.”
Praised as “riveting” (Kirkus) and “wildly relevant” (Barnes & Noble Teen Blog), Carlton’s novel depicts an endearing heroine caught between two very different boys and the choice to fit in or speak out, and vividly evokes the temptation to turn a blind eye to injustice in order maintain the status quo. In the Neighborhood of True will have you immersed in its Southern summer, craving a Co-Cola by a picturesque pool with a relatable narrator, rooting for her to embrace her truth.
SUSAN KAPLAN CARLTON currently teaches writing at Boston University. She is the author of the YA novels Love & Haight and Lobsterland. Her writing has also appeared in Self, Elle, Mademoiselle, and Seventeen. She lived for a time with her family in Atlanta, where her daughters learned the finer points of etiquette from a little pink book and the power of social justice from their synagogue.
susankaplancarlton.com | @susankcarlton | @susankcarlton
In the Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton
Algonquin Young Readers / Publication Date: April 9, 2019
Price: $17.95; Hardcover; 320 pages; ISBN: 9781616208608
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