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Strange Fruit Paperback – July 15, 1992

4.4 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

It's August, it's hot, it's revival time in Maxwell, Georgia. Tracy Deen, the rebel child who always disappoints his self-sacrificing mother, returns home from World War I. It is clear as day, once he is able to put his feelings into words, that he loves Nonnie Anderson. But Tracy Deen is white and Nonnie Anderson isn't. She's from one of the best colored families in Maxwell, even college educated, but she isn't white; and now she's pregnant with Tracy's child and she's glad. Nonnie's brother and sister try to make Nonnie see the problems they all now face. Maxwell is a town where, on the surface, people know their place. But after a white man is murdered in the black part of town, fear takes over and a vigilante group soon appears. A young man laments: "Right now, I have some ideas...If I stay here twenty years, I won't have them. Now I see things without color getting in the way - I won't be able to, then. It'll get me. It gets us all. Like quicksand. The more you struggle, the deeper you sink in it - I'm damned scared to stay -." Strange Fruit, written fifty years ago, confronts problems that have yet to be resolved, that need to be read about and acted upon. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Holly Smith

About the Author

Lillian Smith (1897 - 1966) was a novelist, essayist, and one of the first prominent white southerners to denounce racial segregation openly and to work actively against the entrenched and often brutally enforced world of Jim Crow. Author of Killers of the Dream, The Journey, and One Hour and recipient of the Southern Authors Award in 1950, she was both celebrated and condemned for Strange Fruit, her first, and most accomplished, novel.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 371 pages
  • Publisher: Harvest Books; 1 edition (July 15, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156856360
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156856362
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #318,162 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I don't think I've ever read a book as complete in so many different ways as this one. It had a lot of intelligent insight about people and society, it made my cry, it made me laugh, it made me swoon at the love story, the language was beautiful, and half way through the story, the suspense got really exciting. I can't think what more I could ever ask for in a book. This book is about race relations in the early 20th century South, but it's also about so much more than that. It's about the need we all have to find our place in this world and to be accepted and loved. This book is for anyone who's ever felt like an outcast in society. It's also for anyone who's ever really loved anyone, whether it was a family member or a romantic love, and whether they received love back in return or not.
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Format: Paperback
Strange Fruit is an excellent portrayal of race relations inthe deep South of the 1920's. It is a deeply moving story of forbiddenlove, and the inability of both whites and blacks in the early South to shed the long standing racial bigotry and prejudice, so prevalent in that era.
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Format: Hardcover
Lilian Smith took on the Jim Crow racial system of the American Deep South and the hypocrisy of white southern Christians head on in her seminal 1950 memoir Killers of the Dream, making the subject of her 1944 novel "Strange Fruit" in a sense no surprise to current day readers. In 1944, a different reaction met the book as it was widely criticized and even banned and confiscated - the book's blurb says for profanity (that I didn't even notice) and its incendiary depiction of a small Georgia town during a life and death crisis. Its power undiluted, "Strange Fruit" still became the best-selling novel in America in 1944.

Again, religion plays a big role in Smith's book - this time a weeklong series of revival meetings during the early 1920s serves as the backdrop for the story. In front is a years-before-it-became-acceptable romance between Tracy, son of the town's white physician, and Nonnie, the youngest daughter in the town's leading black family. Born of a chilvarous act during the girl's childhood, and surviving absences from the town by both lovers - she to go to college and he to serve in World War I, the love affair goes along very quietly behind the scenes until Nonnie reveals to Tracy that she is pregnant with his child and happy to be so.

As with most dramatic star-crossed romances, this one spirals toward a tragedy that the people in both White Town and Colored Town of Maxwell, Georgia struggle to deal with.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I recently checked this book out from my local library, started reading it, but never got the chance to finish it. I decided to just purchase a copy of my own because I was so in love with it just from the first page.
I mostly love the style that the book is written in, with different stories inside of the story, all creating an intricate portrait of each of the characters. The language is dark and passionate, especially in the instances of Tracy & Noni's own thoughts to themselves about each other. I found myself completely inside of their world, feeling their struggle with the emotions they had for each other in a society that just could never accept them being together. This book is a great portrait of the racially divided South in the 1920's, a heartwrenching love story that is an absolute treasure to own.
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Format: Paperback
I stumbled upon the author and this book was mentioned as an explosive, realistic look at Southern racism by a white Southerner who was ostracized for her progressive views on race.

Reading through that lens, Strange Fruit is indeed an indictment of white racism and white culpability with regards to not being brave enough to stand up against the hate. It fails, however, as a novel about black Americans.

For one thing, every black character falls into popular stereotypes--mammy, tragic mulatto, black buck, etc. Smith also fell into the trap of so-called dialect: none of the dialogue between the rural black characters would be out of place in a minstrel show.

The character of Henry really bugged me because I have read an article published in the 1900s where the white author stated that black children are incredibly bright, but their minds stop evolving around age 13. Henry's characterization was exactly this: he was shown to be intelligent and Tracy's equal as a child, but somehow despite him growing up beneath Tracy, Henry as an adult was a simple-minded, dialect-speaking fool who was dumbly loyal to Tracy and the Deens. Also, for all the hoopla over the interracial romance, it's not even a major part of the plot. It's merely a piece of Tracy's tragic life, and Nonnie floats through the text--literally--never giving us a glimpse of what drives her other than her slavish adoration of Tracy.

All in all, Strange Fruit is incredibly underdeveloped. A number of plot threads appeared and then sort of drifted aimlessly until the end of the story. As a piece of Southern fiction, it is an interesting read, and it's great to compare with Go Set a Watchman, which was written by the other "turncoat" Daughter of the South novelist, Harper Lee. But for me, it didn't transcend the stereotypical portrayal of the black characters, when it was ostensibly supposed to be in support of their equality.
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