This historical novel dives into a fascinating and under-explored area of African-American history (1897-1925). It follows Ivoe Williams and her family as she grows from a reading-loving girl in rural Texas to a crusading journalist and newspaper founder; along the way Ivoe has sexual affairs with three women and the author explores many facets of African-American history, from Muslims under slavery to the 1905 Austin streetcar boycott. Most compelling, it shows the rise of police abuse and the convict labor system in ways that are eye-opening and relevant for the US justice struggle today. It made me think long and hard about what activist strategies work and why.
That said, it does have some classic first-novel problems and would have benefitted from a tighter focus. Some of the political discussion comes a bit too obviously from a 21st century POV, and there's an evil ex-girlfriend who is straight out of central casting. But those interested in African-American and queer history will enjoy it.
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