Talullah, Louisiana. 1899.
Calogero, his uncles, and cousins are six Sicilian men living in the small town of Tallulah, Louisiana. They work hard, growing vegetables and selling them at their stand and in their grocery store.
To 14-year-old Calogero, newly arrived from Sicily, Tallulah is a lush world full of contradictions, hidden rules, and tension between the Negro and white communities. He’s startled and thrilled by the danger of a ’gator hunt in the midnight bayou, and by his powerful feelings for Patricia, a sharpwitted, sweet-natured Negro girl. Some people welcome the Sicilians. Most do not. Calogero’s family is caught in the middle: the whites don’t see them as equal, but befriending Negroes is dangerous. Every day brings Calogero and his family closer to a a terrifying, violent confrontation.
Based on the 1899 lynching of five Italian immigrants, this thought-provoking book draws its power from vivid depictions of late-19th-century Louisiana and little-known historical facts. Settled in smalltown Tallulah, 14-year-old Calogero and a handful of other Sicilian immigrants find themselves isolated: by law they are not "white," but white people discourage them from mixing with Negroes (the sheriff, forbidding Calogero to attend the town school, advises him that he'd be better off uneducated than attending the Negroes' school). But social pressure doesn't keep Calogero from a budding romance with smart, pretty Patricia, even after he's almost beaten up for "fraternizing with them cotton pickers." Napoli (Hush) sketches out some economic and political roots of racism as the white citizens' resentment of the Sicilians builds. While the author leaves some seams showing in her attempt to incorporate background information, her protagonists are convincingly vulnerable, and the violent climax will ensure that readers remember her message. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.