Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had by Kristin Levine

When I first started reading this book, I thought it was set in the 1950's, a time during which there was rampant racial discrimination, and which has been written about extensively, so I was surprised when I realized that the setting for the book is much earlier -- 1917. The author drew on her grandfather's experiences growing up in Moundville, Alabama, gleaned from pages typed by her grandmother and given to each of their grandchildren. In the book, 12-year-old Dit has been waiting for the new postmaster to arrive because he heard that the family has a son his age. Instead, when the train arrives, the first person off is a young African American girl, followed closely by her mother, then her father, who "was just as black as the rest of them." The town is aghast, and so is Dit, but not for the same reason. His dreams of having a new best friend to go fishing with, play baseball with, and go hunting with are ruined. This is the story of an unlikely friendship between a white boy and a black girl, both about two steps away from adolescence, during a time in history when relations between the races were anything but casual. Dit has a true, original voice, which you see from the very beginning of the book. "I've been wrong before. Oh, heck, if I'm being real honest, I've been wrong a lot. But I ain't never been so wrong as I was about Emma Walker. When she first came to town, I thought she was the worst piece of bad luck I'd had since falling in the outhouse on my birthday." Review by Stacy Church

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