Published by:Algonquin Young Readers
Genres:Historical Fiction, Contemporary
Setting: Atlanta, Georgia
Format: Mobi (Kindle file)
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.
“Every time you’re thirsty, take a drink out of the colored persons’ water fountain.”
“Ah, so in the neighborhood of true.” Davis one-dimpled me. “That’s what we say when something’s close enough.”
After her father’s untimely death, Ruth Robb’s mother uproots her and her little sister from New York City to Atlanta, Georgia. The main issue? Ruth is Jewish and she doesn’t want anyone to know. Segregation and blatant racism still loom large in the 1950’s South. Because Ruth’s mother was raised in Atlanta, Ruth is able to hind behind her grandparents non-Jewishness. Ruth must wrestle between being popular and being who she truly is.
I really think books like ‘In the Neighborhood of True’, are important for young adults of today. It helps them to realize that segregation and the civil rights movement are not things of ancient history but things that happened a short time ago. Desegregation here in Florida is something that was actively happening when I was in elementary school and segregation was still very much alive when my parents were in high school. An interesting topic for me was the situation with Ruth and the ‘colored’ water fountains. My mom was six in 1958. Her family had just moved to Florida from upstate NY. When she took a drink from the ‘colored’ water fountain at a department store, she was summarily yelled at by a store employee. So these types of events are things of living memory.
I appreciated that Carlton made Ruth a very flawed character. The fact that she and her grandmother hide that Ruth is Jewish so that she could attend ‘wasp’ country clubs and a Christian school made her believable. I also think this is a reality for most teenagers who are put in Ruth’s situation (especially in that time period).
I loved that Ruth had two sisters in the story. I really feel there is a tendency in YA contemporary to make the protagonist an only child or child with absent siblings. I think this tendency is such a shame because for most of us our siblings are a major part of our young adult experience.
I did have some issues with some of the dialogue. Sometimes it felt kind of clunky and confusing. For example, sometimes I couldn’t tell who was talking or what they were talking about. Some of this may be due to the format of my digital ARC. I also felt that at times Ruth felt a little young for her age. I kept thinking she was thirteen or fourteen.
The only other issue I had with ‘In the Neighborhood of True’ is Mr. Hank. I am a little torn whether his character was realistic for the time and place. I’m just not sure the outspoken liberal attitude of his newspaper would have been tolerated. I realize he owned the newspaper and that made him powerful and influential but I just don’t see him not being shunned in his social circle.
I really enjoyed ‘In the Neighborhood of True’ and it’s message. I would love to read more YA historical fiction and I can’t wait to read more from Susan Kaplan Carlton.
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