G. Bianco, 2019
In her stunning OwnVoices novel In the Neighborhood of True, Susan Kaplan Carlton transports readers to a time when Elvis was all the rage and girls received promise rings and varsity jackets from their beaus. Originally published in 2019 and now available in paperback, this debut book is “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.
This YA historical fiction book showcases life for a Jewish girl during the late 50s and what societal expectations surround her as her family moves from The Big Apple to the Peach State. Filled with pre-debutante balls, country club outings, and Tea & Etiquette meetings, this novel will transport you right back to the old South and make you feel like you are experiencing all these events along with Ruth.
The different angles this novel takes to show the injustices and prejudices against both Jewish people and African Americans in Georgia in 1959 is eye-opening and startlingly relevant in a modern day and age. Carlton does a great job of showing the world through a teenaged girl’s eyes as she grapples with wanting to be true to herself, but also avoid discrimination and fit in with her new friends.
This novel will make you not only feel nostalgia for carefree high school days, but also leave you aware that beneath the pristine facade was a world waiting for change. Overall, this is a wonderfully relevant book that will appeal to young adult readers and historical fiction lovers alike!
*I received a copy of the book from Algonquin Young Readers in exchange for my honest opinion.
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