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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that there are discussions of lynchings, some of them rather violent. There's also frequent usage of derogative racial terms.
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What's the Story?
Calogero is 14 years old and has not been in America long. He comes to the country from Sicily after his mother dies, and lives with his uncles and cousins in a small town deep in the Jim Crow South. Their successful grocery business draws the ire of white businessmen, and they find themselves in a strange limbo between the white and black citizens of the town. Calogero and his family try to navigate this "no mans land" only to find themselves caught up in a horrific event that changes everything.
Is It Any Good?
Author Donna Jo Napoli does a fantastic job bringing to light the story of Italian immigrants in the deep Jim Crow South. Many people aren't aware of the racism and hardship this group experienced, and by existensively researching the five characters known to us as Calogero's relatives and the catastrophic incident that ended their lives, she makes the stories and struggles of Italian immigrants more real.
Readers will love Napoli's characters and the warmth and life she breathes into them. There is tension, first love, triumph, tragedy, and sadness throughout the story, but there's also a note of resilience that readers will take with them. She does a great job of giving the readers characters who have depth, showing the economic and cultural fears involved in racism, and not painting any one group as all good or all evil.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the time period that this novel takes place. How did economics play a factor in the racism Calogero and his family experienced? Who stood to gain from intimidating the Italians?
Why do you think Cirone wanted to do all things "American" and forget about things that were native to Italians?
How did rumors help fuel the mob? Have you ever seen an example in which rumors made a situation a lot worse than it was?
- Author: Donna Jo Napoli
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Wendy Lamb
- Publication date: March 10, 2009
- Number of pages: 288
- Last updated: July 16, 2015
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