Review: “In the Neighborhood of True” by Susan Kaplan Carlton

In the Neighborhood of TrueTitle: In the Neighborhood of True
Author: Susan Kaplan Carlton
Publisher: Algoquin Young Readers
Publication Date: April 9, 2019
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion. Thank you goes out to Algonquin Young Readers for inviting me to be part of the In the Neighborhood of True blog tour.

 

Thought-provoking and relevant, Susan Kaplan Carlton tells the story of one girl caught between two worlds in her newest release In the Neighborhood of True.

After her father’s death, Ruth Robb and her family transplant themselves in the summer of 1958 from New York 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 socia justice, and now he is caught in 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.

61 years – that is the amount of time in between 2019 and 1958. But even with six decades separating then and now the events of 1958 still resonate, ripple down our today.

I don’t know what that says about us as human beings, about our ineptitude and willful ignorance, repeating all our past mistakes over and over again.

Loosely inspired by the October 1958 bombing of the Hebrew Benevolent Congregation, Atlanta’s oldest synagogue, Susan Kaplan Carlton tackles racism, discrimination and identity in In the Neighborhood of True.

The story follows 16-year old Ruth Robb, who moves to Atlanta from New York after her father’s untimely death. Ruth quickly acculturates to her new home, embracing tea and etiquette lessons, pre-debutante balls and accepting inclusion into the “pastel posse” – a group of popular girls all from well-pedigreed, all-white, all-Christian families. Knowing that she wouldn’t be welcomed otherwise, Ruth hides her religion, her Sundays at the temple with her mother and younger sister in exchange for her new life, and for a while this works for her. But a violent hate crime smash together the two halves of her life and forces Ruth to choose between what she wants and what she believes is right.

In the Neighborhood of True (Susan Kaplan Carlton) Quote

In the Neighborhood of True was such as simple story of a young girl coming of age in a period of great change. This simplicity and uncomplicatedness, however, only made this book standout, giving me a snapshot of history and highlighting the message it wants to impart. Racism and discrimination are still topics very relevant to our lives in this day and age. These are topics, hurtful as they may, that we need to talk about.

Ruth, the focus of much of this story, was a well-developed character. Being once a teen myself, I understood her position and why she chose to hide part of herself to fit in with her new friends. She was a young girl still dealing with the pain and grief of losing her beloved father. I think she found comfort (and maybe some distraction) in being part of something that was so different from her old life in New York – a life where she had a living father and a complete family. Atlanta and its pre-debutante/debutante balls must have felt like a fresh start for her. In Ruth I saw bits of my younger sisters, and I felt for her, wanted her to be happy even as I cringe and roll me eyes at all the frippery she seem to genuinely love.

Ruth was believable – like a real-life teenage girl with flaws, someone who still have a lot of learning and growing up to do, and she lends the story a great amount of realism. The thing I appreciated the most, though, in the way Susan Kaplan Carlton wrote her was how she didn’t make out Ruth as a white savior. Instead, she had her called out several times like in that part when she told the pastel posse about Birdie’s, her grandparents’ black maid, daughters being in college the housekeeper took her aside and told her to not use her children to impress her friends.

In the Neighborhood of True (Susan Kaplan Carlton Quote 2

Susan Kaplan Carlton’s writing was, like the story she wanted to tell, simple, straightforward and on point. No fripperies for her at all, as opposed to her main character, and it made her story flow easily.

Still, there were a couple things that could have been done better. The secondary characters come to mind immediately. With the exception of Alice, Ruth’s mother, and Nattie, her younger sister, Carlton’s supporting cast felt one dimensional. They were there to play parts in relation to Ruth. I couldn’t imagine what their lives are, what they do when they are not with Ruth – and these are all signs that they aren’t as fleshed out as they could have been.

In the Neighborhood of True (Susan Kaplan Carlton) Quote 3

The blurb was also a bit misleading. Going in, I anticipated some sort of love triangle between Davis, Max and Ruth. Sure, there was a Davis and Ruth pairing and something with Max was alluded to, but other than that? Nil.

Overall, In the Neighborhood of True was a thoughtful read. I enjoyed it a whole lot, its flaws aside, and honestly feel like this should be a book that should be read by everyone. YA historical fiction fans, as well as YA contemporary lovers certainly will find something for themselves in this book.

Check out the link below to read the first chapter of In the Neighborhood of True.

In the Neighborhood of True – Chapter 1 | Susan Kaplan Carlton

Author Q&A (2)

Susan Carlton Credit Sharona Jacobs_HR

SUSAN KAPLAN CARLTON currently teaches writing at Boston University. She is the author of the YA novels 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 point of etiquette from a little pink book and the power of social justice from their synagogue.

Website | Twitter | Instagram

POPtastik Pinoy: The 4th Philippine International Literary Festival

The National Book Development Board (NBDB) , Filipinas Heritage Library (FHL) and Ayala Museum have cooked up something really good this month!

As part of the 4th Philippine International Literary Festival celebration, the NBDB, FHL and Ayala Museum presents POPtastik Pinoy. POPtasktik Pinoy is a whole day affair and will feature a series of talks covering pinoy komiks to novels to short stories and TV. Among the panel of discussants and moderators are comic artists Manix Abrera, Noel Pascua, AJ Bernardo,Karen Francisco and Budjette Tan; novelists Eros Atalia, Luna Sicat Cleto and Edgar Samar; scriptwriter Suzette Doctolero; fictionists Sarge Lacuesta and Yvette Tan; journalists Ruel de Vera and Kristine Fonacier; and Prof. Patrick Campos.

POPtastik Poster
POPtastik Pinoy will be held at the Ayala Museum on November 15 from 8:30 am to 8:00pm.

5 Things You Can Do After Reading Allegiant: A GIF Reaction

SO, I’ve read Allegiant a week ago and I’ve already posted my review but I am pretty sure there are still many out there who have not read the book yet. Considering that it’s 500+ pages, you wouldn’t really know what to expect (yes, even if the ending has been spoiled for you, you still wouldn’t know how things came to that so better read). Anyway, spoilers aside, here are some things you can do after reading Tris and Tobias’ and dystopian Chicago’s last hurrah.

1. BRING OUT THE ICE CREAM AND CHOCOLATES! COMFORT FOOD IT IS!

After reading the whole book, this is what I told myself:

tina-fey-1

And so, I ran to the nearest 7/11 store to get chocolates and ice cream.

benandjerryscadbury

Well, I didn’t get Ben and Jerry’s because it’s not available but I got a tub of ice cream nonetheless. Yeah, because food is always, ALWAYS better than Xanax.

2. CRY.

IT ISNT FAIR

Yes, yes…life really isn’t fair and you can’t always tell yourself to

stop crying

So, just bring out your stored boxes of Kleenex and let it all out.

let it out

3. LET MUSIC HEAL YOUR SOUL.

Yes, I totally pirated ‘NSYNC and Gloria Stefan there in that line but really, music helps. I already have a mixtape for Allegiant.

music heals

4. TALK IT OUT WITH FRIENDS.

Because you can never contain so much feels to yourself.

friends

Or not. Whatever suits you, just be with friends.

drink

5. OPEN A NEW BOOK. 

And accompany new characters through their adventures.

bellbooks

Pretty Pictures: Favorite Book Covers

The weekly link-up is hosted by The Book Chewers.

So, MV of The Book Chewers posted this linkup, and I just have to put myself out there about the topic. What is it? Book covers of course! Pretty, mysterious, lovely book covers.

We all have times when we don’t know what to read but the itch to get a brand new sparkly book from the bookstore just won’t go away. So you wander around thinking which one to pick up and take home. Sometimes I ask the bookstore people for recommendations but more often I go with my gut instinct. I pick up books by the blurb and, which brings me to the topic finally, book covers.

For me, book covers are more than just lovely pictures fronting books. They mean something, or at least they intended to. The five that I’ve picked mostly lean on to the former but one was just too fun not to include. Here they are:

Reached - Ally Condie

Reached (Matched Trilogy #3) by Ally Condie

I love all of the covers of theI trilogy but somehow this is my favorite among the  three. It’s a picture of a girl breaking out of the glass which encased her which pretty much tells you the gist Reach‘s plot.

Insurgent

Insurgent (Divergent Trilogy #2) by Veronica Roth

Another dystopian read, Insurgent‘s cover features a tree, also the symbol of one of the five factions in the series – Amity. Amity, as described in the book, is one of the essential factions because they sustain the city with food and produce, and that’s exactly what a tree does. It’s a beautiful correlation.

P.S. Plus points if you have the hard cover.

book cover

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Another cover with a tree on it. If you’ve read this novel, then you know that the whole tree allegory – that we can all grow even with all the scars and trauma. If you haven’t read Speak yet, then you better go get it now. It’s not heart-warming or anything but it will make you think.

Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Another cover I like because of the allegory behind it but also because, just like I am partial to covers with trees, I am also partial to covers featuring bodies of water.

Where'd You go, Bernadette

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

This one I picked because it’s fun. And look at all those different versions!

So, there are my five favorites. How about you? Sound off at The Book Chewers linkup and let the world know.

Book Banning, Shackling Ideas and Mugshots

I’ve always believed in exercising our freedom of expression. It is one of the most basic of rights and while not absolute, it’s one of the things that make us all human. Our ideas are meant to be expressed; our ideas could inspire one person, create a domino effect towards a better world. Imagine a world full of shackled thoughts and repressed speech? It’s a bleak one, I’ll give you that and this leads me to the whole point of me writing this post – banning books.

Censorship is the enemy of our right to free expression and banning books is one of its forms. When a book is banned, access to it becomes limited. What otherwise is a great vehicle for information dissemination becomes impeded. While most appeals against books are rooted on good intentions, personally, I don’t believe it does anyone a favor. Let people read whatever they want to read, let them form their own opinions about the books they open.

Tumblr user Jubilant Antics a.k.a. Kate couldn’t have illustrated the whole thought better. Her series of banned books mugshots says it all – when you ban a book, you’re shackling them.

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I am all for standing up against censorship, if you feel the same get yourself informed and check out the American Library Association’s website.