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Southern Strife: A Novel of Racial Tension in the 1960's Kindle Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Length: 435 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews


Be warned, reader! This book is painful to read yet impossible to put down!

It reprises the horror tales of racial strife in the sixties. I didn't find the period fun to live through, and my feeling now is that it's past and I would like to forget about it. But of course the past is never truly gone. Events of long ago continue to probe their ghostly fingers into the present. Racism waxes and wanes, but it lives on.

The Promised Land gives us a complex but tightly woven plot in which twelve-year old Joy, newly moved to northern Florida in the custody of her divorcing mother and having as yet no friends, is in the process of building a friendship with a biracial boy at school, Clay. She is unaware that the area, so close to Alabama and the drama of Montgomery, is a hotbed of the KKK. Meanwhile, Joy's mother, Jessica, has fallen in love with her lawyer, Bill McKendrick, who is a leader in the KKK. As both relationships deepen, the tension is stretched to an almost unbearable degree.

Joy does not dare tell her mother about her friend; she meets him at the library, claiming she is studying with a girl. Meanwhile, Clay's father is attempting to open a dress shop in the white area of town, and McKendrick along with other KKK members has vowed to stop him at all costs. Joy's mother, gaining hints of Joy's relationship to Clay and determined to stop it, takes Joy out of school. The library meetings grow increasingly important to Joy as Clay is now her only friend. With her mother away on dates with McKendrick, she is often alone. She begins to go home to dinner with Clay, at the very house the KKK has targeted for destruction. Events move toward their inevitable conclusion, and only a last-minute surprise twist of plot saves the book from becoming a Grand Opera story complete with all-around tragedy.

The twist of plot is believable and handled by the author with great skill. Valerie Stocking is best known as a playwright, but in this book she proves she can write vivid descriptions and bring characters to life on the page as well as the stage. The author says it is her wish that readers will feel grateful that it isn't the sixties any more. I can only answer: Yes!

Midwest Book Review

About the Author

Valerie Stocking began writing when she was five years old and won her first short story competition at the age of eight. In 1966, she and her mother moved from Connecticut to a small town in Florida, where Valerie encountered difficulties with the public school system, bigotry and bullying. She left a year later. She went on to graduate high school and college before earning a master's degree from New York University in cinema studies. She has written consistently throughout her life everything from newspaper articles to advertising copy. She worked for six years as an editor for audio books, abridging over 100 novels. For ten years she wrote plays that had readings and productions throughout the United State and Canada. Her novel, "A Touch of Murder," which was published in 2010, is the first in the Samantha Kern mystery series and was nominated for a Global eBook Award for Best Mystery in 2011. She currently lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and is working on her next novel.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1005 KB
  • Print Length: 435 pages
  • Publisher: SJT Press; 2 edition (February 9, 2012)
  • Publication Date: February 9, 2012
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0077EKN3G
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #793,825 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

I started writing when I was five, and won a short story contest in Jack and Jill Magazine when I was eight. At ten, my mother bought me my own typewriter - a manual one! (Wow, this really dates me, doesn't it??)

I have written on and off most of my life, and most of my jobs have involved writing in one form or another. I also worked as an editor for audio books for six years, which taught me a great deal.

"A Touch of Murder" was my first published novel, and is the first in the Samantha Kern series. My second book, "Southern Strife: A Novel of Racial Tension in the 1960's" isn't a mystery, but rather deals with an adolescent's coming of age in the deep South during 1966-67. It was originally published in Jan. 2012, as "The Promised Land." I am currently working on 2 more Samantha Kern novels, after which I plan to write a supernatural thriller.

Now that I've gotten my bio out of the way, I'd like to tell you a little bit more about Samantha Kern, the main character in "A Touch of Murder," and a bit more about Joy Bradford, the main character in "Southern Strife."

Samantha Kern is a very young private detective, just 25 years old. She looks like she's 17, which means she gets carded a lot in bars, a fact that causes her no end of irritation.

Samantha studied gymnastics in elementary school and karate in high school. She went to the local community college afterwards and graduated with an Associate's degree in Liberal Arts. Her internship with her father began right after that, and continued until she was 25, and was able to get her own P.I. license. Five months later, her father was murdered. Now, in "A Touch of Murder," Samantha is facing her first murder case, and she must solve it alone.

As you might expect, since "Southern Strife: A Novel of Racial Tension in the 1960's" is so different from "A Touch of Murder," Joy Bradford is quite different from Samantha Kern. The year is 1966. Joy is 12 years old, and she and her mother, Jessica, who is in the process of divorcing Joy's father, move from their white Connecticut suburb to the racially mixed town of Willets Point, Florida. Joy meets Clay Dooley, a biracial boy in her 7th grade Geography class, and they become friends. This serves as a catalyst for Jessica to inflict more abuse than usual on Joy. Clay's father Clytus, a well-educated black man, is trying to open a clothing store in the white section of town. This causes Jessica's boyfriend, Bill McKendrick, the local Ku Klux Klan leader, to join forces with other whites to drive the Dooley's out of town. Tensions build, and Joy is forced to make decisions that will affect her and her family forever.

When I'm not writing, I enjoy swimming, horseback riding, NFL football, opera, and the theatre. I reside in Santa Fe, New Mexico with a wonderful dog, and a grouchy cat who permits us to live in the same house with him, as long I keep his food bowl full.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The seriousness of this time in history so often comes back to haunt us. I feel for the characters in the novel . For Joy who just wants to have a friend. Who wants to be loved for who she is, and to escape the harshness of her mother. For Clay, smart and kind but biracial in a time where that is unaccepted. Clytus, Clay's father who wants to better himself and his family's livelihood but is shot down by racist groups. Calls each of it's readers to consider their own levels of racism and bigotry. To look around at the different cultures within our own circles and realize that we are all from one creator.
Very intense at times, this book takes you kicking and screaming back into the heat of the Klan and the horror that they inflicted. Well done look at history, yet with a theme that is still relevant for our times today!
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Format: Kindle Edition
Stocking's story evolves over a very critical period in our history. What plays out in the story is at times difficult to grasp and stomach. It really saddens me to read of the horrors that were done to African American people in America. Unfortunately, I am sure these stories are just a few of the thousands that were perpetuated all across the south.

This book is full of many themes including mental illness, racism, parenting, the 1960's, and teen issues. I can imagine book clubs having really deep discussions around the themes in this book. It is definitely a novel that makes you think about how you treat others and wrongs being made right.

I was really shocked at the blatant racism in the book. As a child born in the Midwest, I haven't seen the harsh, horrible acts of racism that were portrayed in this story. It really made me sick to my stomach. On top of that, I had to "witness" Joy's mom's mental breakdowns that resulted in Joy being neglected and verbally and physically abused. Both of these issues in the story were integral, but tough to grasp. It was hard to like the main characters in the book. I certainly didn't feel sorry for them.

I can not imagine ever thinking the way the characters in the book did towards African Americans or anyone I know thinking this way. It just really broke my heart.

Because, this book was set in 1966-1967, I had to realize the limitations of the era as well as the how children related to their parents. Situations were much more hush hush during that time. Joy didn't have the knowledge or experience to battle against society or her parents.

Even with all the hate in the book, Stocking does leave you with a glimmer of hope at the end. You want to believe things will change and you know they eventually do.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Valerie Stocking's The Promised Land is a brilliantly paced story of a 12 year girl struggling to survive life with her mentally disabled mother in a small southern town in the 1960's. The mother loses control of her thoughts and the daughter is tossed about by the whims of an unstable mind and the violence of an unstable community. The child's only friend, a bi-racial boy, is threatened by the murderous small town Ku Klux Klan and the community members who support this group. Her life in fictional Willets Point seems doomed to failure, but, true to her name, Joy Bradford rises above her situation and finds hope amid chaos. This is a must read for those interested in the civil rights era in the United States and for those who enjoy coming of age stories.
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Format: Paperback
Valerie Stocking's novel, The Promised Land, is a coming-of-age story of a young girl, Joy, in the racially-tensioned South in the mid-1960's.
All 400+ pages are filled with well written prose; the story is engaging, suspenseful and paced well all the way through.
The characters seem real and believable, from the girl, to her biracial friend, to the parents, and the sheriff. The mother of Joy is hard to take; let's face it, some women are not cut out to be mothers.
We care about them, and want to know what happens to them. This is a difficult endeavor to perform: getting the reader to really care about the characters.
The Promised Land is a book you can't put down. I highly recommend this book. Read it!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I haven't read anything by Valerie Stocking before so I had no expectations. Usually, if I don't like the writing style, I'll simply close the book and move on. I didn't like the style much, but I persisted and finished the book. I'm not entirely sure why.
Most of the characters are almost caricatures, two-dimensional and unconvincing. It is overwritten: whenever we get a scene where something is shown we are told what is going on as well just in case we missed it. Some aspects of the plot work, some do not.
So why did I carry on reading? I think some of the subject matter, as well as the place and period, is interesting. The deep South in the 1970s was a volatile, hate-ridden time and place and these characters are enmeshed in their private dramas there. This can be a good way to bring out deeper themes and sometimes it doesw work in this story.
The main character (at least I think she is the main character,there are so many points of view it is hard to tell whose story it is) is a plain, clever 12-year-old who has been taken away by her mother after a messy divorce. When we are seeing events through her eyes the story is more convincing and it is easier to empathise. The mixed-race family are too good to be true. When we are with the evil lawyer or the mad mother or the awkward policeman it is hard to care about these people.
The various strands of plot: small-town politics, race hatred, male-female relationships, school politics, family strife are rather clumsily presented, often very superficially. Cliches abound. The writing is very uneven.
The ending, like much of the writing, is trite.
Overall, it reads like an early draft of a story that has the potential to say something worth reading.
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