Genre: Historical Fiction/Young Adult
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Published: April 2019
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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.
Set in the 1950s, In the Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton is a historical ownvoice young adult novel. It follows Ruth Robb, a 16-year-old girl struggling to fit in, even if it means hiding the fact that she was a jew. A girl who wants to enjoy the best of both worlds. But is forced to pick a side, to stand up for the truth.
I enjoyed the narrative. You are transported to the 1950s. A world of tea and etiquette and elite debutantes. But also a world of Klu Klux Klan, lynching, and hate crimes. With a generous peppering of the southern slang. Although it is primarily about antisemitism, the author sheds light on the state of blacks at the time. The cross burning. The social boycott. All the while not sounding preachy.
“When hatred shows its face, you need to make a little ruckus. And you, dear Ruthie, you made a very important little ruckus.”
There are numerous coming of age young adult books out there. Books about the struggle to fit in. Some that are fun to read. In contrast, this timely novel is an important historical narrative. About true courage that comes from purposefully standing out.
As much as I liked the book, I also had a few issues with it. It did take me a while to get into the book. Ruth’s character felt too one-dimensional up until the last few chapters. Perhaps it was meant to be like that. I also felt the romance wasn’t really required and it slowed down the flow of the book.
“Jews are accepted just fine at the banks or the law offices or the hospital or whatnot. But after dinner? After five o’clock, people like to socialize with their kind.”
Set in the 1950s, a historical #ownvoice YA novel that is just as relevant today. Blog Tour: In the Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton Book Review #InTheNeighborhoodOfTrue @AlgonquinYR #BookReview Click To Tweet
At times, you come across a book that may not have the best writing style or an immersive narrative. But it is an important one nonetheless. One that is timely. One that discusses antisemitism and racism that need to be talked about more. This is one such book. Although it might not work for everyone, I highly recommend reading the book. The paperback launches today, July 7th. If you enjoy audiobooks, the book is also available on Storytel.
About the author
Susan Kaplan Carlton currently teaches writing at Boston University. She is the author of 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.
I would like to thank Algonquin Books for providing a digital copy of the book for the blog tour. All opinions are my own.
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Image by PRAIRAT FHUNTA from Pixabay