Friday, November 11, 2011

Dangerous Skies

As part of my research for Half-Truths, I am reading as many books as I can which probe the relationships between African Americans and whites. By now I am less surprised by stories of segregation and prejudice in the 20th century, but Dangerous Skies is an exception. Readers may be shocked that this story takes place in 1991--just twenty short years ago.

At twelve years of age, the friendship between Buck Smith and Tunes Smith developed since infancy. They grew up together along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay where their families' lives intertwined. "[Tune's] daddy, Kneebone, was manager of my father's farm, like his father and his father's father before him, all the way back to the time when they were freed from slavery, which was how they first came to work the Smith land." (p. 6)

The two were highly respected fish finders, but the summer that they were to turn thirteen the watermen not only asked where the fish were biting, but where Buck and Tunes had been together. "I didn't think much about it at first, but before long all the looks and questions were getting on my nerves." (p.9) Buck says, foreshadowing the book's main conflict.

When Buck and Tunes discover a dead body floating in shallow water, events unfold which baffle and anger Buck. As he doggedly tries to discover who killed him, Buck has to face his own lies as well as long-standing alliances within the white community which breed condemnation for Tunes. 

The publisher recommends this book for readers from 8-12. I disagree. There are references to forced sexual intimacy between Tunes and a white man. Although these are written in a very subtle manner, I recommend this book for upper middle grade students and higher. 

Prejudice, deceit, hypocrisy, love, and loyalty-- this book has it all. But a book set in 1991--is that historical fiction or not? What do you think?


elysabeth said...

Interesting - anything in the past is history so I would consider it historical fiction as long as it has some history basis to it. Possibly could be called reality fiction more than historical fiction. I learned that genre the other day - pretty cool videa - was classifying movies mostly but I could see applying the different genres to literature as well.

Thanks for sharing another interesting read with us. E :)

Elysabeth Eldering
Author of Finally Home, A YA paranormal mystery

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for your comment Elysabeth. Yes, reality fiction. Actually, I think anything that has history in it can be classified as historical fiction.

Edupreneur said...

Carol, thanks for adding another book to our disturbing history. It is painful to read about these situations, but they are real. Isabel Wilkerson has written a masterful book, The Warmth of Other Suns: the Epic Story of America's Great Migration. The genre might be realistic nonfiction. I couldn't put it down. Wilkerson tells the personal stories of three African-Americans who migrated from South to North and West from the 30s through the 50s. In between she catches us up on history and weaves it all together with empathy. It was eye-opening to me to realize the ongoing discrimination in our country.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks for the book recommendation! I am going to add it to my "to read" list now!

Clara Gillow Clark said...

This is definitely a book I need to add to my reading list along with the book mentioned by Edupreneur, Warmth of Other Suns. Thanks for sharing, Carol.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Clara for visiting my blog. SO many books to read, so little time!

Augusta Scattergood said...

I think since the book When You Reach Me came out, this topic of What is Historical Fiction, esp for young readers, has been batted around a lot. Some say anything written before a readers' lifetime! That wouldn't be so long ago for middle grade readers, would it.
I actually wrote a blog post on the topic, and I think you weighed in, Carol!

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