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Susan Kaplan Carlton Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Lobsterland (2007)Description / Buy at Amazon
Love and Haight (2012)Description / Buy at Amazon
In the Neighborhood of True (2019)Description / Buy at Amazon

Susan Kaplan Carlton
Susan Kaplan Carlton is a historical fiction writer best known for her debut novel In the Neighborhood of True. Born of a Jewish father, this author understood too well the hate directed to her kind, and this is the theme in her novel. The San Francisco born writer holds a master’s degree in Journalism, and she teaches at Boston University. Away from work, Carlton is a wife and mother of two.

In the Neighborhood of True
In the Neighborhood of True is a story of love and the Jewish struggle in the 1950s. It is a tale of the price people pay for speaking up. The year is 1958, and Ruth Robb and her family have just moved to Atlanta from New York City. Ruth was raised in a Jewish home, but after her father’s passing, the teenage girl, her mother, and her sister are forced to move closer to family. Soon enough, Ruth will learn that Atlanta is nothing like New York. While she didn’t have to worry about her Jewish origin in her previous home, she has to choose between being a Jew or famous in Atlanta.

Being a teenager, Ruth chooses to fit in. It is easy for her to fit in with the blond girls since she is only half Jewish. In a short while, Ruth has new all-white Christian friends, and there is even a boy she enjoys sipping cokes with after school. Her new friends completely embrace her, and for a while, life is all about parties, trying clothes, and the usual teenage fun. What Ruth’s friends do not know is that she carries a huge secret.

While it is clear that Ruth wants her friends to see her as white, her mother makes it mandatory for the family to attend the synagogue once a week. Ruth has no problem with that as long as none of her friends discover this truth. At the temple, Ruth meets Max, a young man who is seriously fighting against social injustice. Now she is torn between two boys, one knows her real self, and the other knows her as a white Christian girl. Who will Ruth choose in the long, and what informs her decision? What happens if she decides to stand for what she believes in?

A violent crime in the neighborhood jolts Ruth back to reality, and she is forced to be true to herself. The events that follow put Ruth in the spot, which explains why she is facing a disciplinary committee in the first pages. Can she keep quiet and comfortably have fun with people who hate her kind so much? What will happen when Ruth can no longer turn a blind to the injustices directed to people like her?

This book is based on the Atlanta Temple Bombing event that happened in 1958. Ruth is a Jewish girl who struggled with her own identity in a society that made it uncomfortable for her to be who she wanted to be. She is not the only one. All around her are men, women, and children who cannot be comfortable in public because of their origin. The author also shows the reality of black people during this time. Blacks had it even worse, and if you consider current happenings, it seems like not much has changed more than half a century later. One good thing about this book is that the author highlights racism without the white savior element characteristic in such stories. When Ruth tries to elevate herself by praising Birdie’s kids, she is reprimanded. The author also highlights the lynching that happened curtesy of the Klu-Klux-Klan.

This is a young adult historical story. The writing is smooth, and the narration makes it easy for the reader to identify with Ruth and see where she is coming from. As teenagers, most of us would make the choice she made. After all, the only thing most people at that age want is to be accepted by their peers. This book is thoughtful and will make you look at how little the situation has changed in the last sixty years. Racism, anti-Semitism, and discrimination is still rife in the U.S. The eruptions that happen now and then clearly indicate that many people are carrying a lot of hate in their hearts.

Ruth is a lovable character. Her growth throughout this book is tremendous, and it is admirable that she chooses to do what is right. Ruth is keen to look at her surroundings and see the etiquette classes, and while she initially decides to hide, it doesn’t take long for her real character to emerge. The rest of the cast is just as easy to fall in love with. Ruth’s mother is outstanding, and it is admirable that she let her daughter see the ugly side of hate covered in racism and ani-Semitism. After reading about Ruth’s mother, one cannot help but wish that all parents were like her. Imagine if all parents trained their children to be kind, loving, and respectful to all despite color, religion, and other differences.

This book will take you back in the 50s, and the descriptions are detailed enough for you to understand what was happening at that time. The starting will capture your attention, and when the author moves back in time, your curiosity will make you want to find out what happened to Ruth.

In the Neighborhood of True is a moving and heart-wrenching read. All characters are well-developed, and their interactions are so organic you will wonder if this is not a true story. Interactions between Ruth and Max are outstanding, and their romance brings some sunshine in a rather grave situation. The pacing is just right for this type of story, and the storyline is engaging enough to make you keep turning the pages. Long after you are done reading this book, you will still be thinking about Ruth and the numerous Jews who were discriminated against in the 1950s. If you are looking for a hard-hitting book on the plight of the Jews and people of color, this is a perfect read for you.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Susan Kaplan Carlton

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