Gavin F (gavluvsga) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
Gavin F

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Book #35: One Night in Georgia by Celeste O. Norfleet

Number of pages: 304

What with the prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement right now, this felt like an apt book to read, with its themes of racial discrimination. Most of the story is set in 1968, shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King; the narrator, Zelda, is a young African-American woman travelling to Atlanta with her friends, where they are to attend college; her companions are Veronica (mixed-race) Daphne (white) and Daniel (also African-American). The reader is also told that Zelda's father was killed by a police officer, in what appeared to be a racially-motivated incident. The book feels like a realistic portrayal of the time it is set in, with a scene involving the Black Panthers (my understanding is that they had a significant presence in the 1960s).

A lot of the story deals with racial discrimination, but writer Celese O. Norfleet is not out to target white people as inheritantly racist; as one of the characters states, "it's not black and white". So, in the novel, several of the white characters who Zelda and her friends interact with are opposed to racism themselves; for example in the aftermath of an incident where Zelda and her friends get racially abused on a beach, despite having just saved some white children.

It wasn't much of a surprise that the writer targeted the American police a lot, and they are shown to be the perpetrators of some of the most shocking incidents. The only real problem in this book was that the book's blurb talked a lot about the events of the last few chapters, and made them sound like they occupied more of the book. It's perhaps not surprising, as these are the chapters where the book really drives its points home about institutional racism.

But it's not just a book about racism, and in between the unpleasant moments, there are some really good scenes between Zelda and her friends, and it feels more like a road trip novel, and introduces some romantic elements at one point.

I enjoyed this book a lot; it was very upsetting in places, because of the racial incidents portrayed, but definitely one that I would recommend.

Next book: Hope Has Wings (Audiobook) (Stuart King, read by Simon J. Williamson)
Tags: african-american lit, book review, contemporary, drama, fiction, grief, gritty, history, memoir, misery memoir, modern lit, non-genre fiction, ominous, period fiction (20th century), race, realism

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