Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Year the Colored Sisters Came to Town

Title: The Year the Colored Sisters Came to Town Author: Jacqueline Guidry Publisher: Welcome Rain Publishers Pages: 256

I borrowed this book from my local public library.

From the inside cover:
Southwestern Louisiana, rural Cajun country, 1957

Vivien Leigh Dubois, a precocious and curious ten-year-old girl, and her family lead a modest and contented life filled with age-old traditions such as picking figs and making preserves. Their black housekeeper, Aussie Arceneaux, has been their faithful friend since Vivien Leigh's mother was a child, and her daughter Marydale and Vivien Leigh's seven-year-old sister Mavis are practically inseparable. But when the town of Ville deAngelle is jolted by the arrival of two black nuns to teach at Holy Rosary, the all-white Catholic elementary school, Vivien Leigh and Mavis are exposed to a hatred and fear they never knew existed.

Their father leads a "Concerned Citizens" group to protest and challenge the new teachers, even their mother begins to reject the lifelong friendship with the Arceneaux family. For the first time in her young lfe, Vivien Leigh is obliged to consider the color of people's skin and the impact of race on the very fabric of society, from the most intimate to the most public.

This was a touching and thought-provoking story. Guidry touches on the many prejudices and ingrained beliefs of small town Louisiana in 1957- from the boldest to the most subtle. The relationships and realities of the black and white citizens of that town are seen through the eyes of Vivien Leigh and her family and friends. Vivien Leigh is a lovable young girl who always finds a way to listen in on adult conversations. Unfortunately, this brings forth much information that her ten-year-old mind is not necessarily ready to handle. Aussie and Vivien's mother have been lifelong friends. The effect of the nuns' arrival on that friendship, and the friendship of Mavis and Marydale is realistic, yet heartbreaking. Equally heartbreaking are the results of the hatred of the Concerned Citizens and the KKK. I won't include spoilers. This book is, in my opinion, and accurate picture of the realities of black/ white relationships in the 1957 South. 

Read this book if....
*you love southern fiction
*you have an interest in the racial issues of the South in the 1950's

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