[dropcap]A[/dropcap]rkansas Summer: Love and Terror in the Jim Crow South, authored by Anne Moose, is categorized within the literary genre of historical fiction. This beautifully written novel is about an interracial love story set against the background of America’s South a few decades ago in the 1950s; it opens up our eyes and minds to a shameful epoch in our nation’s history, one that should never be forgotten.
As Moose said during an interview on my web-based radio show, Writers’ Café, ”It …shines a spotlight on the terror perpetuated by the fear that was experienced by black people…many people think that slavery ended and that suddenly everything was on an even playing field and that everything should be rosy for black people but nothing could be further from the truth.”
The author meticulously and methodically did her homework so as to achieve authenticity for her subject and her readers and was aghast to learn of the existence of “convict leasing,” a system that facilitated the reintroduction of slavery even though this was officially off the books as per the 13th amendment to the constitution and persisted until the outbreak of yet another war, this time not fought on American soil, WWII.
Slavery is the term that is documented in a plethora of publications in the annals of history. However convict leasing is a term we are just beginning to hear some noise about. “It was very easy for sheriffs to arrest blacks on the least whim and…lease them out to coal mines and factories…in some cases they worked people to death.” This was a lucrative business enterprise for these sheriffs who would simply accost their victims in the street.
During her adolescence screaming newspaper headlines documented instances of “black protesters being attacked by police dogs and police batons.” Inquisitive about the reality of life in small Southern towns, her parents enlightened Moose with harrowing tales. ”My mom talked about being in a store and they told her to step in front of black customers who were there before her because that’s how they treated black people. White people always came first. Of course my mom was horrified and refused to do it.”
Moose’s goal in sitting down in front of that blank screen on her computer was to create a character “with my sensibilities and put her in that environment.” Her book is loosely based on her own family experience whereby her father was estranged from his father due to the latter’s virulent espousal of racist views. An innocent childhood friendship between little Catherine and little Jimmy, the latter the son of Catherine’s grandmother’s housekeeper, blossomed into a beautiful romance a decade later when due to a sad event, her grandfather’s death, she made a return visit to her grandparents’ farm. World literature is inundated with romance novels from every nook and cranny of the writing population but alas this love story must be hidden from view since this is 1955. Any manifestation of love between these two lovers could quite conceivably have disastrous repercussions on both partners. The characters in this book are purely fictional but their world is only too real.
Authors are also readers who get their inspiration from other authors. In this instance, Moose was inspired by Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King, that chronicles the true saga of four young black men falsely accused of rape in the state of Florida.
“If people are allowed to be together in their daily lives I think they will be naturally attracted to one another and fall in love. I don’t think race should be a barrier. Love is the most natural way to bridge the racial divide.” Closing remarks from an author who wrote a love story that persisted even though it was taboo at the time.
Anne Moose is a resident of Mission Viejo, California and is an editor and small book publisher with a degree in Social/Cultural Anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley.
Moose is a compelling storyteller and this one unfolds with page turning urgency as she paints a convincingly chilling portrait of white supremacy in a small Southern town.
BookLife Review:Arkansas Summer is a powerful novel about love and racial terror in the Jim Crow South. It’s 1955, and Catherine has joined her father in Arkansas after her grandfather’s death. She’s a California college student, and it’s her first visit to her grandparents’ farm since the summer she was nine. When she is reunited with Jimmy, whom she’d played with as a child, the two are immediately drawn to one another. They understand the dangers of their interracial attraction, but could never have imagined the far-reaching consequences of their untimely love. Arkansas Summer takes readers on an emotional journey of passion and suspense, all the while shining a spotlight on the twisted ethos and violence of the segregated South.
Plot: The plot is well-executed. Set primarily in the Jim Crow South, the danger posed to a budding interracial relationship rings true.
Prose: The prose shines when conveying the details of the couple’s budding romance, a deft illustration of the tenderness, discovery, and sense of invulnerability that comes with new love. But, in the preponderance of the novel, the writing is more workmanlike. There is a lot of hate in the small town, and in these portions of the book more showing and less telling is needed.
Originality: The work’s plot is unique and engaging. While readers will see the interracial relationship coming, the conclusion of the work is a surprise. Readers have been lulled into a false sense of plot predictability, and are instead rewarded with a satisfying twist.
Character Development: The protagonists are well developed and feel like real people. The supporting characters read more like types than real people and could use further development.
Arkansas Summer Love and Terror in the Jim Crow South by Anne Moose is available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.excerpt
Marilyn Silverman is a writer, assistant editor of Caribbean American Weekly, host of Writers Cafe Radio Show, and Panelist (How to market and promote your book: Inaugural Black Book Expo, New York).