The girl is Nonnie Anderson, tall, lovely, college-educated. Her family can’t understand why she stays in her dead-end town working as caregiver for a retarded child.
The reason is Tracy Deen, an aimless college drop-out seething with resentment because his mother liked his sister best.
When Nonnie tells Tracy she’s pregnant, his response is predictable: He doesn’t want to think about it.
None of this would be more than mildly interesting except that Nonnie is black, Tracy is white, and they live in 1940s’ Georgia. The sun beats mercilessly, humidity rises, people get edgy, and sounds of a tent evangelist call white sinners to immunity within the church.
Lillian Smith, who lived most of her life in Georgia, knows all the nuances of race relations in the South. She shows us that race is only one factor in race relations. Poverty, education, anti-Yankee sentiment, and religion all play a role.
But the most important factor is human choice.
Our society still hasn’t come to grips with the issues Smith raises in Strange Fruit— all the more reason to read this marvelous 1944 novel today.Strange Fruit
By Lillian Smith
Harcourt, Brace, 1944
1944 Bestseller #1
My grade = A
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© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni