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Strange Fruit Paperback – July 15, 1992
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
While this book was written many years ago, many of the issues addressed in it
are still ones we are dealing with today.
one of those books that truly moves your soul
and stirs up emotions
and also of a time not so long ago and very much relateable of how race relations are today. Read more
I have always loved Southern literature but just recently encountered this book in a graduate course. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Stephanie C.
I had read this was a book that was on the best seller list in 1944 - so I ordered it, but it was pure labor to get through it and I never did finish it. Read morePublished 20 months ago by J. Sabayrac
I never knew about Lillian Smith until I moved to north Georgia, but she was a phenomenal woman and writer. Read morePublished on February 18, 2014 by Caro
I read this book, oddly enough, after hearing the Kanye West song that samples the song "Strange Fruit," most famously sung by Billie Holiday. Read morePublished on October 21, 2013 by bIgle44
This book was so deep and disturbing. It made me think and feel more about race relations then and now than I was expecting to.Published on October 7, 2013 by kaira.breanne22
I love Southern writers but did not know Lillian Smith.It is a most disturbing book, and although the "black-white" relationship fortunately has improved dramatically over... Read morePublished on August 22, 2013 by Tosti di Cremoni Helge
This is an astonishing book, the characters and the sense of time and place
beautifully and strongly rendered. Read more