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In the Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton - Blog Tour with Excerpt

Happy Wednesday everyone!  I'm very excited to welcome you all to my leg of the In the Neighborhood of True blog tour!  Today, you'll find the details and summary for this novel,  an excerpt from the first chapter, and an about the author, Susan Kaplan Carlton.  Thanks for visiting my stop on this blog tour!




Title: In the Neighborhood of True
Author: Susan Kaplan Carlton 
Publication Date: April 9, 2019
Price: $17.95
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 320
When Susan Kaplan Carlton began to write In the Neighborhood of True, she was inspired by historic events that had taken place in a synagogue where her family once worshipped. She never imagined that news in 2017 and 2018 would lend new relevance to the violent anti-Semitism she addresses in her YA novel. Partly inspired by the Atlanta temple bombing of 1958, In the Neighborhood of True is the thoughtful and provoking story of Ruth Robb, a young woman trying to fit in to the “in” crowd in her new hometown by hiding her Jewish heritage. Susan Kaplan Carlton’s past historical YA novels have been praised for their “believable, rich, likable characters” (Kirkus Reviews) and “important” (Booklist) topics relevant to teens’ lives. In this novel of the 50s Jim Crow South, Kaplan Carlton’s gorgeous prose invokes a time filled with sweet tea and debutante balls as well as cross burnings and hate crimes.
In the sweltering summer of 1958, Ruth Robb and her family move to Atlanta from New York City after the sudden death of her father. A fish out of water and grieving, Ruth meets the ruling “pastel posse” and their little pink book of manners. She quickly falls for the charming and popular Davis, who teaches her about football games and the Country Club, and is the perfect escort. Eager to fit in and to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a debutante, Ruth hides her Jewish heritage and her attendance at Sabbath services in a segregated Atlanta. Then a hate crime tears apart her community, and Ruth is forced to confront the prejudice head on and speak up about injustice.

Carlton’s family attended services at the Hebrew Benevolent Society, Atlanta’s oldest synagogue and a center for early civil rights advocacy, in the early 2000s. She says that watching her younger daughter volunteer “in one of the classrooms that had been bombed years before… stayed with me—the idea that the walls that held these kids had once been blown apart by white supremacists…it became really important to me to write this book about a girl who comes to do the right thing even when it’s hard and heartbreaking.”

Praised as “riveting” (Kirkus) and “wildly relevant” (Barnes & Noble Teen Blog), Carlton’s novel depicts an endearing heroine caught between two very different boys and the choice to fit in or speak out, and vividly evokes the temptation to turn a blind eye to injustice in order maintain the status quo. In the Neighborhood of True will have you immersed in its Southern summer, craving a Co-Cola by a picturesque pool with a relatable narrator, rooting for her to embrace her truth.

PRAISE FOR IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF TRUE

“Every character is memorable and complex, and the plot quickly becomes engrossing…the characters' moral decisions are so complicated and so surprising that many people will be kept spellbound by even the tiniest detail. Riveting.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Carlton does an excellent job of mixing the personal with the historical here…Ruth crisply relays her conflicted feelings, the tense situations, and characters who are well shaded and occasionally surprising.”
—Booklist

“A gorgeous story about a teenage girl finding her voice in the face of hate, heartbreak, and injustice.”
— Nova Ren Suma, #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Room Away from the Wolves

“Susan Kaplan Carlton’s snapshot of 1958 Atlanta is both exquisite and harrowing, and I will hold it in my heart for a long time.”
—Rachel Lynn Solomon, author of You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone and Our Year of Maybe

“You might not think a book set in 1959 could feel wildly relevant, but wow does this YA set in Atlanta that explores anti-Semitism in the south during the Civil Rights era feel incredibly on point after the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.”
—Barnes & Noble Teen Blog

“While it's not wrong to say that historical fiction can be a great genre to read when you want to take a break from current events, these books can also be a gateway to re-examining and understanding the many ways that history can repeat itself unless people make meaningful, positive change happen. Susan Kaplan Carlton's debut, In The Neighborhood of True, is a combination of both: romantic escapism brushes against harsh truths about discrimination and violence.”
—Bustle

Excerpt: 

1

The Whole Truth

1959

The navy dress was just where I'd left it, hanging hollow as a compliment behind the gown I'd worn to the Magnolia Ball the night everything went to hell in a handbasket.

I thought of Davis and his single dimple and how his hand had hovered at the small of my back, making me feel its phantom weight even when he wasn't touching me. I thought of a different day and a different dress, this one with sunburst pleats- how he'd unzipped it and fanned it out on the grass that night at the club, how the air was sweet as taffy, and how when we rejoined his family I'd wondered if every pleat was back in place.

"Ruth!" Mother's voice burst into the closet. "Not the morning to dillydally."

"Coming," I said, but I did the opposite of not-dallying. I put the navy dress on over my slip and sat, right there on the closet floor, not giving a fig about wrinkles. It was as if my nerves had pitched the world ten degrees to the left and I had to plunk down to find my balance. It was cool at the back of the closet-in what I'd come to think of as my New York section, the land of navies and blacks and grays-where the floor was concrete, smooth and solid beneath me.

When we'd first arrived here at the end of an airless sum­mer, Mother, who'd changed from Mom to Mother when we crossed the Mason-Dixon Line, told her parents, whom we'd always called Fontaine and Mr. Hank, that Nattie and I needed wall-to-wall carpet to cushion our landing. Maybe we needed cushioning after the shock of our father's death, or maybe we needed cushioning after moving from our apartment in New York to our grandparents' guesthouse behind the dogwoods. Either way, the next afternoon, two men turned up with a roll of white carpet and stapled it over every square inch of the place, save for the closets.

Just like that, we were blanketed in an ironic, improbable snowstorm.

"Now, Ruthie," Mother said, on the other side of the door.

I stood up and pulled in, feeling the dread in my chest prickle from the inside out.

The dress reminded me of Leslie Caron in An American in Paris, except I was an American in Atlanta, and in the six months I'd been here, my taste and I had gone from simple to posh to simple again. If the girls in the pastel posse were in the courtroom today, I bet they'd be in shades of sherbet, rays of sunshine against the February sky.

Today, I didn't want to be sunny.

Today, I wanted to be Plain Ruth, teller of truth.

On the drive downtown, Mother said, "You be your self up there, Ruthie. It doesn't have to get ugly." Her short bangs curled down her forehead like a question mark.

Here, nothing was supposed to get ugly.

As we passed the putting greens on Northside, I watched the trees sway, thinking that winter was different- prettier in a place where the trees cared enough about their leaves to hold on to them year-round. And also thinking that prettiness had to be planned, that the sprinklers had to work hard to keep the perfect green lawn from turning back to plain red clay.

I cranked down the window, needing to feel the air.

We were twelve minutes late. Mother was often late, a leftover New York affectation, but today my dallying about dresses had held us up. For a half second, I paused in front of the large door with FULTON COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT etched in gold, then inhaled and turned the knob gently, hoping to avoid a clang.

Clang.

A hundred or more heads swiveled in my direction.

Mother dropped her smile, but then she touched her pearls and reassembled herself. I followed her lead, hand to my throat, where my own string of pearls- along with my stomach and other major organs-had taken up residence.

The courtroom was impressive, with a soaring ceiling and sunlight flooding in from impossibly tall windows. It looked not unlike the temple at the center of the trouble.

The pastel posse was here after all. I tried to catch Gracie's eye, but she was busy tugging her apricot twinset into place. Mother and I walked past Rabbi Selwick and his wife, both turned out in tweed, and I thought of him at our house with his daughter and her gift of peach preserves. Behind them were women in fur and men in pinstripes. The couples probably from the Club-looked like they were waiting for a tray of martinis to glide by.

Mother stepped into the third row, and I slid next to her. Davis was five feet away, at the defendant's table. The collar of his white oxford shirt, crisp and starched, poked out above his blazer. I couldn't tell a single thing Davis was thinking, from looking at the back of his very handsome head.

The attorney nodded to me and twisted his mouth. "You're late." To the judge he said, "We apologize for the delay, Your Honor. We call Ruth Robb to the stand." My pumps click-clicked on the marble floor. A woman with coral lipstick motioned for me to sit in the witness chair, like on Perry Mason. Goose bumps inched up my arms. I wished I'd thought to bring a cardigan.

She turned to me and said, "Raise your right hand and repeat after me."

I raised my hand and noticed a sunburst carved into the paneling over the door I'd just walked through, a little moment of brightness. "Other right, " she said.

''I'm sorry." I raised my other hand. "I'm terrible with left and right. I always-"

"Miss-" the judge said, looking down at a note card. "Miss Robb. No need to talk now." He had gray hair and half-glasses, and he gave a half smile.

And I thought : But that's why I'm here. Because I couldn't keep my mouth shut.

The woman picked up a Bible, and I placed my free hand over its worn leather cover. I knew there were two Bibles- one for whites and one for Negroes. I knew because Rabbi Selwick was on a mission to have Negro witnesses use the same Bible as the rest of Atlanta. I thought about asking for the Negro Bible, even though every single person in the court room was white, but as the judge himself had said: "No need to talk now."

"Do you swear on this Bible the testimony you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?" the woman asked.

In the distance, I heard a sprinkler turn on. Tsk, tsk, tsk. I glanced at the Bible, the King James version, and it occurred to me I was swearing on the sacred text of another religion, that there wasn't a Tanakh for Jews to pledge their truthfulness upon.

I wanted Davis to look up. I wanted to see if his tie was straight. I wanted to see if he' d nicked himself shaving. I wanted to see the constellation of freckles across his eyelids. I wanted to see how he looked when he looked at me.

And then he did-his true-blue eyes locked right on mine. I felt the heat slide up my cheeks. Davis, who taught me about the Uncivil War, and blowing perfect smoke rings, and real honest-to-God French-kissing. Davis, who said he wanted us to get married the second we turned twenty-one.

I swallowed. "I do."

About Susan:



SUSAN KAPLAN CARLTON currently teaches writing at Boston University. She is the author of the YA novels Love & Haight and Lobsterland. Her writing has also appeared in Self, Elle, Mademoiselle, and Seventeen. She lived for a time with her family in Atlanta, where her daughters learned the finer points of etiquette from a little pink book and the power of social justice from their synagogue.



Thanks to Brittani Hilles at Algonquin Young Readers for this opportunity!

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