The Color Of A Lie

The Color Of A Lie
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Release Date
June 11, 2024
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In 1955, a Black family passes for white and moves to a “Whites Only” town in the suburbs. Caught between two worlds, a teen boy puts his family at risk as he uncovers racist secrets about his suburb. A new social justice thriller from the acclaimed author of This Is My America!

Calvin knows how to pass for white. He's done it plenty of times before. For his friends in Chicago, when they wanted food but weren't allowed in a restaurant. For work, when he and his dad would travel for the Green Book.

This is different.

After a tragedy in Chicago forces the family to flee, they resettle in an idyllic all-white suburban town in search of a better life. Calvin's father wants everyone to embrace their new white lifestyles, but it's easier said than done. Hiding your true self is exhausting -- which leads Calvin across town where he can make friends who know all of him...and spend more time with his new crush, Lily. But when Calvin starts unraveling dark secrets about the white town and its inhabitants, passing starts to feel even more suffocating--and dangerous--than he could have imagined.

Expertly weaving together real historical events with important reflections on being Black in America, acclaimed author Kim Johnson powerfully connects readers to the experience of being forced to live a life-threatening lie or embrace an equally deadly truth.

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The Color Of A Lie
(Updated: July 01, 2024)
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After a horrific incident, Calvin and his family leave Chicago and settle in a new White suburban housing development in Levittown. Calvin misses his friends and resents that his father insists they 'pass' as White to have a better life. It's 1955, a year after Brown vs. the Board of Education ruling that called for integration in public schools. Calvin hates the life his father has forced on him and fears the truth will be uncovered. When offered a job at Levitt & Sons, Calvin stumbles on an ugly truth. That there are those in town who will do anything to keep Levittown segregated. Can Calvin have the courage to help break down the barriers while he risks the danger of putting himself and his family in danger?

What worked: Powerful portrayal of a painful part of our past during Jim Crow America. Calvin is forced by his father to pass for White to better their way of life. Calvin is resentful but also fearful of this lie. Each day he struggles with fitting in with his new school and neighborhood. Calvin doesn't understand why his father would do this to his family. He helped his father with the Green Book. This was a book that helped Black Americans navigate America during Jim Crow.

All these characters are complex and multi-dimensional.

The author did a lot of research on this era which sadly is still present in our country. Readers see Calvin struggle in an all-white school. He witnesses one girl, Lilly, enroll, and how she's harassed and more. There's scenes of him wanting so much to act on his attraction to Lilly, while afraid this will reveal his 'secret'.

There's the neighbor girl who spies on his every move. There's also the conflict he has with listening to his father and longing to take a stand against discrimination and prejudice.

The scene where Calvin goes to a rally in Virginia to help with integration at his school is very authentic down to the incident where their car breaks down during Sundown. His friends and him are arrested and stay the night in prison. The police officer abuses him without fear of being reprimanded.

At the end of the novel are the author's notes, with references to this period and about places like Levittown. I went to YouTube to watch a video on one such town. The animosity shown when one Black family moved into an all-white housing development is haunting. It's sad to believe such things happened here in the US.

Riveting historical set in 1955 where a teen grasps with a forced identity that conflicts with his desire to stand up to injustices around him. Totally recommend.

Good Points
1. Powerful portrayal of a Black teen passing for white in 1955
2. Addresses painful history of US
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