1959

Thulani Davis, Author Grove/Atlantic $18.95 (297p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1230-9
In this resonant debut novel, 1959 is the year that Willie Tarrant, a young black girl in Turner, Va., turns 12. Civil rights activism, coming to this small town in the form of sit-ins, boycotts and voter registration drives, shatters the false peace between black and white inhabitants. The decision to integrate galvanizes the black community, but it also terrifies Dixon, Willie's beloved father, as the girl is among the handful of blacks chosen to attend the white school. Dixon knows that in a county where a black teenager is murdered because he asks a white man for a match, Willie's safety isn't guaranteed. Turner's black residents, whether or not they are involved in the Movement, endure beatings and daily harassment by the Klan (aka the police department). Willie learns the subtle art of subversion from her elders as church services become civil rights rallies; housewives joke about dodging attack dogs; young and old go to jail together. Witnessing the changes in her community and, internally, in her pubescent body, Willie develops a crush on the new boy at school and discovers the writings of James Baldwin, all the while registering her neighbors to vote and secretly reading her great-aunt Fannie's diary. The depiction of a woman who lived in the Virginia of the 1800s is as vivid as that of Willie living a century later. Davis celebrates everyday heroes whose defeats and triumphs she describes with hynotic dexterity. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/03/1992
Release date: 02/01/1992
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FORMATS
Paperback - 297 pages - 978-0-06-097529-6
Paperback - 297 pages - 978-0-8021-3831-6
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