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?
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