In The Neighborhood of True is a powerful story about solidarity, standing up for what we believe in, and finding ourselves.
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.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
Part of what I enjoyed about In the Neighborhood of True is how relatable Ruth’s character is. Having just moved from New York to the South, Ruth’s life has utterly changed – going from having a father, to living in her grandparent’s guesthouse where she is encouraged to omit her Jewishness. In the Neighborhood of True is a book about the ways Jews who stood in solidarity with black people in the South were also targeted, and looked down upon within society.
But Ruth struggles with figuring out who she is – is she the girl who wants to read the Etiquette manual and omit her Jewish identity or is she the girl who attends the synagogue on Saturdays and speaks her mind? It’s in the comments of people who are both intrigued and curious about her curly hair. And throughout the book, we witness how the women of her family deal with this transition.
It comes as no surprise that Ruth’s character and journey is the focus of the book. It’s about the differences between her mother and Ruth – the places their path diverged. Can Ruth find out who she wants to be without the influences of her grandmother or her own desire to fit in? I could relate to Ruth’s conflicts about erasing parts of her identity. Growing up I had a hard time coming to terms with my adopted part of my identity – not feeling like I fully belonged – and so in order to fit in, I just ignored the parts of myself I coludn’t reconcile.
One of the biggest conflicts that we see unfolding In The Neighborhood of True is how Ruth will react in the wake of a hate crime that happens in her town. It is in this moment that all her feelings of wanting to fit in, of the directions of her heart, and wondering just how loud she will be comes to a head. Will her desire to conform, to be a debutante, erase her sense of what is right?
In The Neigborhood of True is a story of a girl trying to figure out just where the truth lies. Does it matter if you’re in the neighborhood of right? Of the truth? Can you be satisfied if you’re close enough? It’s a quiet story about needing to remember what happened before, of putting your beliefs into action, and of being caught between two versions of ourselves.
About the Author
Susan Kaplan Carlton, a longtime magazine writer, currently teaches writing at Boston University. She lived for a time with her family in Atlanta, where her daughters learned the fine points of etiquette from a little pink book and learned the power of social justice from their synagogue. Carlton’s writing has appeared in Self, Elle, Mademoiselle, Seventeen, Parents, and elsewhere. She is the author of the young adult novels Love & Haight, which was named a Best Book for Young Adults by YALSA and a Best Book by the Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street Books, and Lobsterland.
Prize: Win (1) of (2) copies of IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF TRUE by Susan Kaplan Carlton (US Only)
Starts: 3rd April 2019
Ends: 16th April 2019a Rafflecopter giveaway