Thursday 16 November 2017

DREAMLAND BURNING by Jennifer Latham

When seventeen-year-old Rowan Chase finds a skeleton on her family's property, she has no idea that investigating the brutal century-old murder will lead to a summer of painful discoveries about the past... and the present.

Nearly one hundred years earlier, a misguided violent encounter propels seventeen-year-old Will Tillman into a racial firestorm. In a country rife with violence against blacks and a hometown segregated by Jim Crow, Will must make hard choices on a painful journey towards self discovery and face his inner demons in order to do what's right the night Tulsa burns.

One of the deadliest race riots in US history happened in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on a hot 1921 night when the economically and culturally thriving black community of Greenwood was burned to the ground. Dreamland Burning gives voice to this little-known moment in history, crossing historical fiction with a cold case mystery in a story that makes bold statements about how racial tensions have changed --- or haven't --- in nearly 100 years. 

This is a book I've been looking forward to reading for a while, so I'd like to thank Hachette Australia for sending me a lovely hardback copy.

When Rowan finds a skeleton on her property because a construction team disturbed the servants' quarters on her family's property, she's drawn into the mysterious death of someone who was clearly murdered almost 100 years before. 

William lives in Tulsa during 1921, when tensions between whites and blacks reached a dangerous level. One stupid, selfish and very thoughtless act on a drunken night sets off a horrible chain of events that echo long into the future.

These two teenagers might have almost a century between them, but what happened in the past echoes into present day...

Wow. This book is SO damn good. 

It's amazing, in a very confronting and brutal way, because it presents two fictional stories and one is set during a very intense time in American history. It made me uncomfortable, angry, sad, and even proud. Because where there is hate for no real reason but to push a pathetic agenda, there will always be people who understand right from wrong and will follow the correct path. People who take the time to get to know others and offer the hand of friendship, no matter what the cost.

I really liked Rowan and her friend, James.  They have a strong friendship that's realistic but not without its problems. She's a kid caught between two worlds, but has lived most of hers in one more than the other. But when she finds the skeleton and gets a job in a clinic and is exposed to the ugly side of what society still does to people with dark-coloured skin, she starts to realise just how cruel and unjust the world really is. This pushes her forward into the investigation. While her life takes her down a dark path of guilt and grief, the past leads her to some very surprising places. And even more fascinating people.

As for Will. I didn't like him at the beginning because he came across like just another white boy who thought he was owed things. In this case it was a girl. So while what happened to the innocent guy involved upset me, I was glad it made Will see what a bad thing he'd done. And as I found out more about his mixed heritage, it was a relief to see his attitude change and watch him become a better and stronger person.

As for the historical event at the centre of this story--the Tulsa Race Riots--that part made me really sad. And so angry. But it's part of the history of this violent and cruel world, so I'm glad this book shines a spotlight on it.

Sometimes, when I see the news and see what's going on in the U.S. I feel as if we're still in that awful place of division, and wish humanity would move past the absurdity that feeds racism. Because at the end of the day, that's what it is. Systematic hate fed to impressionable young minds is an offense that needs to stop. It should've stopped years ago. No one is better than anyone else, and no one has the right to tell others how to live their lives. 

Dreamland Burning is a powerful, well-written and thought-provoking book that doesn't hide from the shameful racist truth of America's past, or how it's unfortunately still there. It made me uncomfortable and so very sad, but there's so much heart in the words that I couldn't help but love it. The way the story is told works brilliantly because it's a contemporary tale with a historical plot expertly interwoven through its core.

I was hooked by the premise, and the kids who told their own interconnected but separate stories kept me glued to the page. 

Dreamland Burning, July 2017, ISBN 9780316384933, Little, Brown Young Readers US

No comments:

Favorites More