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Fireflies in December Paperback – January 1, 2009
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Little does anyone realize that simple Christian charity will inflame the bigots and hatemongers in this small Virginia town. Escalating episodes of horrific violence ensue, including sexual attacks directed at 13-year-old Jessilyn Lassiter, the novel's narrator, after her white family takes in her black best friend, Gemma, when she is orphaned by a tragic fire. Winner of the Christian Writers Guild's 2007 Operation First Novel contest, Valent has created a darkly evocative historical novel that boldly explores the divisive effects of unreasoning hatred, greed, and fear on a community already struggling with the economic and racial tensions caused by the Depression and exacerbated by the Ku Klux Klan. As these forces impact one family, childhood innocence is lost, but Valent's characters also experience the affirmation of a deeper, more lasting faith. --Booklist, December 1, 2008
Top Customer Reviews
In these first eleven words of Fireflies in December we realize Jessilyn Lassiter's world is pregnant with change. Not only is she walking that tenuous line between childhood and womanhood, but during the summer of 1932 Jessilyn finds herself in the crosshairs of man's hatred for his fellow man.
When her best friend Gemma's parents are tragically killed in a fire, Jessilyn's father takes the girl in. No matter that she's as dark as coffee and sticks out in their white family like a sheep in a cow field. Harley Lassiter sees people for their hearts, not their skin color. If only the rest of Calloway County felt the same way. Soon Jessilyn is ostracized by whites and blacks alike. This racial mingling "just ain't done", and it isn't long before the Lassiter family becomes a target for something much more sinister, and deadly. The Klu Klux Klan.
In Fireflies in December Valent has skillfully dropped us into the middle of southern Virginia during a turbulent time in our country's history. Less than seventy years had passed since the Civil War, and unfortunately not everyone embraced its outcome. The Great Depression's talons still clung to many families. "Things were poor, especially in our parts, and for having a working farm and a good truck, we were fortunate. We even had some conveniences that other people envied, like a fancy icebox and a telephone..."
Fear has a way of bringing out the worst in folks, and perhaps that's why racism was still so prevalent in the south of 1932. As I read this novel, I found myself amazed that such hatred existed.Read more ›
The story keeps you pretty much on edge from the beginning with life-like characters who speak very early southern dialect from down on the farm or cotton patch.
It's very easy for me to understand such dialect, having grown up in the early 1950's (although this was set in the 1930's), because I grew up in Kentucky coal country, where we spoke in the same manner.
Excitement grows as the character and her family take in a little black child whose house was burned down and her parents killed in the fire.
You just don't do that in those days with the KKK living in your town! Trouble is constantly brewing and people want you to do things their way-and taking in a colored girl.....well, that "ain't right" for white folks to do.
Not wanting to allow anger, hatred, and injustices dictate over love and compassion, the family firmly decides to keep her anyway.
Murder, arson, and threats become the normal for this compassionate and loving family. Justice? Well, where is it? Faith in God to prove that love will conquer over evil is this family's sustaining belief.
If you enjoy suspense and intrigue, you should love this story......it's a series of three, so you may want to buy them all at once!
I had a few questions along the way, however. For one, even though Gemma had no biological family left, why wouldn't someone of "color" come forward to take her in? While I understand why the "whites" in town were upset with the Lassiter's decision to raise Gemma, why weren't the "coloreds?" (Remember, I grew up in the South, too, and I know both sides of this card.)
But even with the questions, I was reminded of my family heritage, rich in reaching across race lines. Many, many years ago my great uncle and great aunt "took in" a black child who was severely burned (my great-uncle was the physician who treated him) and whose family had rejected him because of his "pink" skin. NFL great George Rogers was practically a member of my 2nd cousins family. For those memories alone, this book was valuable to me.
One other issue I had was that I was not fully aware of the era until about 1/3 way through the book. I may have missed the clues before that ... I began this book on an airplane with lots of little kids anxious to get to Disney! So, take that issue with a grain of salt.
Bottom line: do I recommend this to other readers??? Only those I really, really like!!! :) I LOVE THIS BOOK! And I cannot wait to see what comes next from Jennifer Erin Valent!
Eva Marie Everson
Author: Things Left Unspoken: A Novel
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent read narrated by a teen and very appropriate to what is happening today in the U.S.Published 16 days ago by Beatriz De Nogales
This book is a good memory of a time in US history we should acknowledge but make sure we never go back to its thinking.Published 1 month ago by Azott
The characters and story could have happened just down the road 60-70 years ago. Makes me want to look for other books by the author.Published 2 months ago by Red Dirt Girl 57
Very fast reading.
Keeps the reader very interested and anxious to continue reading,
Set in the 30"s this novel about a young girl experiencing horrors of the Klan and evil as they relate to her and her families taking her black friend into their home. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Alice L. Feldman
Don't you just love a southern story? This one is set in the 20's and 30's. The Klan rears it's ugly head and it so hard to understand that hate. Read morePublished 2 months ago by J. Kish