Title: In the Neighborhood of True
Author: Susan Kaplan Carlton
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Publication date: April 9th, 2019
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.
TW: racism, anti-Semitism, bombing
Set in Atlanta in the 1950’s, In the Neighborhood of True tackles anti-Semitism and racism through the eyes of 16 year old Ruth Robb. Ruth just moved to Atlanta and want to participate in being a debutante, but has to hide her Jewish faith as she wouldn’t be allowed to participate if people knew. She meets new friends, gets a boyfriend, and thinks all is swell until her temple is bombed by by someone with the KKK. The bomber took issues with her temple and rabbi assisting black churches in the efforts of integration and the equality of Black people in the South. Ruth must make a choice – honor her heritage or her newfound friends.
This story has a lot of timeliness, as there is much going on right now in America that frankly doesn’t feel much different than is portrayed in this book. The millennium may change, but people and hate have stayed consistent. It was interesting to read in the dialect and slang of the South at the time, and see just how different life was. Ruth’s story was eye opening in many ways.
The story felt slow in the beginning and the middle, I wasn’t quite sure where it was going. But by the last 100 pages, it really picked up and showed the true struggle that Ruth was going through. Because what 16 year old doesn’t want to fit in? But is it worth changing who you are, just to please others? I felt it was well done by the author to show Ruth not only learning to accept herself as Jewish, but see Black people as equal and deserving. Ruth messed up often in the book, but was open to correction, and sometimes that’s all we can do.
I highly recommend reading this if you have an interest in social justice and the current events happening now.
Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
Happy reading, folks!