Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Out of the Dark by Ashley Hope Perez

This is historical fiction based in the late 1930's in the oil fields of south Texas where there is a mix of black, white, Hispanic populations.  Folks lived fairly well no matter what race  since oil was plentiful and free gas could be had to use in all households.  Still there were separate schools for blacks and whites.  Whites had everything newer, more plentiful.  An Hispanic girl from a different part of Texas stuck out both in the white and the black community.  So Naomi came to New London, oil town, with her younger mixed race half siblings when their father came for them and took them from their mother's parents, their abuelitos.  Henry's pastor said it was the right thing to do.  Almost right away beautiful, resourceful, intelligent Naomi formed a friendship with the son of the principal of the black school.  He also was attractive, intelligent and resourceful.  There were constant racial tensions, who could shop at what store at what time, what was Naomi doing in the whites only school and so on.  Wash's and Naomi's friendship progressed, became more than friendship.  When Henry started making advances at Naomi, wanted to marry her things got especially tense and the pair made plans to escape taking the kids with.  Then there was a horrific explosion at the whites school.  Many were injured, many were killed.  The oil rig workers, the black community including Wash all did the best they could to save lives, to find the missing.  Afterward there were rumors about who was at fault for the explosion and ultimately deaths of so many white children.  Someone had to pay and ultimately whites set out to make the black community and in particular Wash and his family take the blame.  The family tried to escape.  They were nearly lynched.  Terrible, terrible racially motivated stuff happened to Wash, Naomi and Washes family.  Beto under his white name Robbie was the lone survivor.  A riveting story based on the New London Texas school disaster of March 1937.  Very hard to read and very hard to put down.   JDW 2/16

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