A powerful story of love, identity, and the price of fitting in or speaking out. After her father’s death, Ruth Robb and her family transplant themselves in the summer of 1958 from New York City to Atlanta—the land of debutantes, sweet tea, and the Ku Klux Klan. In her new hometown, Ruth quickly figures out she can be Jewish or she can be popular, but she can’t be both. Eager to fit in with the blond girls in the “pastel posse,” Ruth decides to hide her religion. Before she knows it, she is falling for the handsome and charming Davis and sipping Cokes with him and his friends at the all-white, all-Christian Club. Does it matter that Ruth’s mother makes her attend services at the local synagogue every week? Not as long as nobody outside her family knows the truth. At temple Ruth meets Max, who is serious and intense about the fight for social justice, and now she is caught between two worlds, two religions, and two boys. But when a violent hate crime brings the different parts of Ruth’s life into sharp conflict, she will have to choose between all she’s come to love about her new life and standing up for what she believes.
In the Neighborhood of TrueFeatured
There is so much to love about this powerful historical novel. Firstly, the premise highlights an event in history often overlooked: the bombing on a Jewish temple in Atlanta in the 1950s. Antisemitism did not stop after World War II, nor was it confined to European countries. Ruth struggles with the challenges of being both Jewish and a teen girl. She is grieving from the loss of her father, shaken by the move, and desperately wants to make friends, make her grandmother proud, and maybe even fall in love.
While some might read her desire to be popular as shallow, I would argue the exact opposite. Ruth is seeking connections and seeking ways to make her new life happy. She's still learning what it means to be a full self, to find and accept your own identities with honesty, while facing immense pressure of social and cultural norms.
Another aspect I really appreciate about this story is its inclusion of other types of discrimination and hate. Antisemitism is not the only problem at this time; Jim Crow and other racist regulations and attitudes are rampant as well. Nothing exists in a bubble, and Ruth is quickly seeing how everything is connected.
In short, IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF TRUE has one of the most honest, multifaceted, and authentic portrayals of teen girlhood I've ever read. This is a must for readers of historical fiction, particularly areas that receive less attention.