cover image Saving Savannah

Saving Savannah

Tonya Bolden. Bloomsbury, $17.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-68119-804-0

Following Inventing Victoria, Bolden returns to the world of upper-class African-American society in historical Washington, D.C., where she explores the tumultuous changes of 1919—the fight for women’s suffrage, the New Negro movement, the growth of anarchism—through the eyes of 17-year-old Savannah Riddle, who has grown increasingly embarrassed, even repulsed, by her privileged life. Missing her brother, who has defied their parents’ expectations by becoming a photographer in Harlem, and irritated by her best friend’s frivolity, Savannah determines to “widen her world.” She befriends the cleaning woman’s daughter, Nella, and Nella’s cousin Lloyd, a socialist-leaning activist, and begins to volunteer at the all-black National Training School for Women and Girls. Her world does widen, and her perspective radicalizes, as she experiences how other people live, even as anarchist actions escalate, bringing danger to her community. While Savannah’s characterization lacks some nuance, the story is richly complex in its historical detail, and it builds to a revelatory climax. Enhanced by a comprehensive author’s note, this is a valuable portrayal of affluent African-American society and of post-WWI life. Ages 13–up. [em](Jan.) [/em] Correction: A previous version of this review misstated the protagonist's name in one place.