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Confederacy of Silence: A True Tale of the New Old South Hardcover – July 2, 2002

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Atria (July 2, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671036661
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671036669
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,152,894 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With no prospects for employment after his Ivy League graduation in 1988, Rubin, a 21-year-old Jewish New Yorker, accepted a job as a reporter in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. At the Greenwood Commonwealth Rubin covered sports and local news, wrote obituaries and features and photographed "local color." He also followed the short, happy career of Handy T. Campbell, an African-American high school quarterback from the projects and this story forms the core of the book. Rubin believed Campbell's prowess on the gridiron would parallel Rubin's own promise in the newsroom. But after a year wrestling with his conscience for not decrying abhorrent attitudes and behavior he encountered in the bigoted bigwigs of Leflore County, Rubin fled. Six years later, he returned to Greenwood to understand how the star athlete (now an Ole Miss dropout) and an accomplice could find themselves indicted for the murder of a local UPS man rumored to be bisexual. Rubin focuses the latter part of his book on the sleazy maneuverings of college recruiters and coaches, the investigation into the victim's death, and the prosecution of the trial, which provides the book's frisson. The narrative benefits from Rubin's perceptive observations, but it is his emotional investment in the story that coheres the book's two halves: a memoir of a watershed year in his life and the sordid, convoluted tale of a gross miscarriage of justice. A grittier depiction of the New Old South than Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, to which it will undoubtedly be compared, Rubin's memoir exposes the racial polarity of the Delta in clear, effective prose.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This powerful docudrama provides a searing look at a true crime story through the eyes of a naive young man on his first job as a reporter. At 21, aspiring writer Rubin, currently a contributor to the Atlantic Monthly and the New York Times Magazine, left New York for Greenwood, MS, to settle in as a sportswriter for the daily newspaper. His first assignment included coverage of local football star Handy Campbell, a poor black athlete from the housing projects who became friends with Rubin. Six years after returning to New York, Rubin found out that his friend ended up in jail for the murder of a flamboyant man from Greenwood whom Rubin also knew. Stunned by the turn of events, Rubin returned to Greenwood on a mission to follow the trail of the promising athlete from college to prison. The result is a book that goes beyond the personal to provide a portrait of a Southern community torn by racism and bigotry. Similar to John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, this well-written debut will appeal to anyone interested in the South, racism, or true-crime stories. Recommended for all public libraries and for strong sociology collections in academic libraries. Sandra Isaacson, US Environmental Protection Agency, Las Vegas
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

He would have done much better to let the story speak for itself.
VEBA Las Vegas
I found the second half of the book to be a genuine `page turner.'
The characters are rich and the story is shocking and fascinating.
Helga Schmidt

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 32 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on June 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Richard Rubin says he grew up in Greenwood, Mississippi. It is hyperbole; he spent one good year there in 1988 and 1989, but he was a college graduate at the time. He was, as a Greenwood friend reminds him throughout _Confederacy of Silence: A True Tale of the New Old South_ (Atria Books), an "Ivy League Yankee Jew," who came in from New York and left again for New York. His growing up during that year could have consisted only of disillusion and disgust, and while those were not absent, for Greenwood and its citizens he developed a compassion, a clear understanding, and even love. The year incidentally was one of the steps that turned him into a very fine writer, as this, his first book, shows.

With the job market for a non-typist, liberal arts degree graduate nil in New York, he was looking for work, and responded to an ad seeking a sports reporter for the Greenwood paper. Throughout the book, he shows how Greenwood citizens were almost universally interested, kind, and accepting. The rare instances when he was not welcomed were generally because he was a reporter, not because of his origins. Of course he ran into racists, such as the one who refused the paper because it had too many pictures of blacks in it (although of course the word "black" was not used). Rubin formulated the plan that while in Greenwood, he would maintain a courteous and genial appearance, and keep his outrage to himself. While this is probably mere reciprocation of what the Greenwood citizens did toward him, it worked, in a way: "...while it would indeed protect my job, it would do something quite different to my conscience." Much of the delightful memoir within this book has to do with a foreigner adjusting to a strange land, and would do as a guidebook.
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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Sherri on August 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Having spent my formative years in Mississippi, I approached Mr. Rubin's book with some trepidation. I do love Mississippi-warts and all. I am all too familiar with books written about the South that berate the people based upon their history and the stereotypical depiction of their actions. Refreshingly, Mr. Rubin does not fall into this trap. Yes, there are sections of the book that are difficult to read due to the hateful, racist language referenced. Thankfully, Confederacy of Silence doesn't stop there. The beauty of the place and the generosity and graciousness of the people are crucial aspects of the Mississippi experience that the author astutely depicts for the reader.
I found the section of the book devoted to the writer's experience in the Delta truly fascinating. I found the second half of the book to be a genuine `page turner.' While I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book, I wanted to finish it quickly to find out what happened to Handy Campbell. I did approach the ending with some hesitancy-would Campbell be found guilty even though he was innocent or was he actually guilty? I must admit that the final outcome of the trial was something I never even considered.
I highly recommend this book. As a native of Mississippi, I strongly urge those unfamiliar with the state to experience second-hand the good in the people that Mr. Rubin encounters-it is easy to see the bad. The author uses a clear voice from which the reader can draw his or her own opinion.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Okay, I don't live in Mississippi. But I live in Alabama, and I think that qualifies me to say that in 'Confederacy of Silence,' Richard Rubin -- who quotes someone calling him 'a Yankee Jew' as soon as the book gets going -- has drawn one of the most well-rounded and thoughtful portraits of this never-boring place we call The South. Most Northerners would come down here with their minds made up, ready to stereotype, ready to poke fun and use a whole bunch of dialect (when Rubin uses it, which isn't much, it's really effective and makes a character come to life). Not Rubin. He doesn't know what he's going to find, and while he has some preconceived ideas, he discards them along the way and shows himself doing it. He really *lives* in Mississippi--he gets into his community, he finds things he thinks are fascinating, and he shares them with all of us in a way that makes us think they're interesting too. So that's one part of the book. Another part of the book is about Handy Campbell, a high-school football star whose amazing senior season Rubin covers, and his trial for murder six or so years later. I won't give away the ending, but what makes it so compelling is not just whether Handy is guilty but how Rubin feels about Handy and how the trial affects that. I read a review somewhere that compared this to Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. And it's kind of true, because Confederacy of Silence shows us an entire community and how the way various people live in the community can lead to a murder and how that affects the town. Anyone who liked 'Midnight' will like this. It's not just a memoir, it's not just reporting, it's not even just true crime. It's a really well-rounded view of a whole place, the Mississippi Delta, and its history and its culture and what they lead to. It's great reading.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By MoCrash on March 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
"Confederacy of Silence" is the first full-length book by Richard Rubin, a former newspaper writer who experienced his coming of age as a fish out of water: A 21-year-old "New York Yankee Jew," as one of his friends called him, straight from an Ivy League college (Penn) to the Mississippi Delta - for no reason other than he could write (but not type), had no other viable job prospects and had a longstanding fascination with the 1955 Emmett Till murder case. Hired as sports editor at the Greenwood Commonwealth, Rubin "discovers" - as does the rest of Mississippi, including its two SEC colleges - the brilliant talent of Bulldogs quarterback Handy Campbell. After winning the North state championship, Campbell was signed by Mississippi State, beginning a circuitous route over six years - never playing a down of football - which led to him and an accomplice being charged with murder.

There are two parts to this book: Rubin's recollections of his one-year term at the newspaper and then his return to the Delta six years later to cover the Campbell trial. The first half is more interesting, describing his reactions to the racial environment he encounters in the Delta - which he notes is as different from the rest of Mississippi as Mississippi is to the rest of the nation. As one who has lived, quite pleasantly, in the Hospitality State, I can attest to that truth. There exists a dichotomy in Rubin's reactions between genuine affection for the people who befriend him and the revulsion he feels for their racial attitudes. This is not an uncommon experience for white Americans who disdain prejudice, and it is not exclusive to the South. Although Rubin's naivety is touching, it is also annoying.
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