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White Nights, Black Paradise Paperback – November 16, 2015
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"Sikivu Hutchinson's vision of Jonestown, of the real people who left behind despair for what they thought was belief and hope, is a valuable one - her take is the one America hasn't yet seen." --Susan Straight, author, Between Heaven and Here and Take One Candle, Light a Room
"Sikivu Hutchinson's beautifully written novel captures the complicated relationship between remembering the past and attempting to forget. Her work is hauntingly evocative." --Duchess Harris, Professor of American Studies, Macalester College, author Black Feminist Politics from Kennedy to Clinton/Obama
"Sikivu Hutchinson's first novel, White Nights, Black Paradise, offers a new and refreshing look at Peoples Temple and Jonestown. Imagination and fact seamlessly blend together in this work of historical fiction. But what is most significant in this novel is its strong black voice and presence. Given the fact that Peoples Temple black membership approximated 90% in California, and that two-thirds of those who died in Jonestown were African American, White Nights, Black Paradise makes a welcome contribution by telling a story rarely heard, written from the perspective of a black feminist scholar." --Rebecca Moore, Jonestown Institute Review, editor, Peoples Temple and Black Religion in America
About the Author
Sikivu Hutchinson is the author of Imagining Transit: Race, Gender, and Transportation Politics in Los Angeles, Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars and Godless Americana: Race and Religious Rebels. She is a contributing editor for The Feminist Wire and was named 2013's Secular Woman of the Year .
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Top Customer Reviews
I had just graduated from high school when the Jonestown massacre occurred, and living in the Midwest I'd never got all the details of what happened. Revisiting this tragic experience for the first time in decades, I learned a lot from reading this novel.
First off, I had never realized that the majority of the people who were members of the People's Temple, and who traveled to Guyana, were of African descent, and mostly Black women. I also didn't realize the level of influence that Jim Jones had in the political arena at the time. I simply saw what happened in Jonestown as some sort of religious cult gone terribly wrong.
Well yes, the People Temple was a cult for many of its members, but Ms. Hutchinson's novel describes the important complexities and nuances of that cult, the time period, and the members and followers who made up the Peoples Temple.
White Knights, Black Paradise is very much about race, delusional religious beliefs, and even the existential longing and desire of people to escape racism, poverty, sexism, and the social alienation they experience(d) in this country.
I would imagine that most readers of this novel already know how the novel is going to end, but how it all began —the roots and formation of the Peoples Temple — is what many readers may not know, and we should.
Ms. Hutchinson's talent and skills as a writer makes this novel highly intriguing, especially for someone like myself who stopped reading fiction several years ago. White Knights, Black Paradise is indeed a page turner. I felt for many of the characters, especially the journalist, the two sisters, and the those who tried to expose the lies and hypocrisy of Jim Jones. I was also deeply saddened to read the so real struggles that people were facing back then, and how much those issues are still with us today, though today it would probably be almost impossible for such a massacre to occur. Or would it?
As tragic as the story is, this novel needs to be read and discussed especially in these times when religious dogma and so-called dominate social morality are causing people to not think critically about long-held religious beliefs and the political and religious pandering of preachers and politicians who have such a deep influence over the lives of ordinary people.
It's because of White Nights, Black Paradise that I plan to read more fiction this year, and also will read more about what happened in the Peoples Temple.
Throughout it all, the rise and fall, the center is black women. How Jim Jones recruited them, used them, exploited their causes and culture to place them on the bottom rung again. How society, especially white women, treated them. Every angle, problem, with housing, medical care, church, jobs, careers, and children, is examined from these women’s point of view.
It’s chillingly clear how easy it was to believe in the causes and ideals of the People’s Temple. In the beginning, I kept nodding along thinking “YES!” But the internal hierarchy, the execution made it all a lie and the downward spiral visible. The descent into cult madness is vivid and understandable.
White Nights, Black Paradise is unforgettable. I had to read it slowly to digest and contemplate along the way. It will hurt, disturb, and make you think. I can’t say it was enjoyable, the struggles and pain of black women isn’t a romping good time. It’s enlightening, both a tribute and thesis. A testament to black woman power in all forms and shades. An indictment of white culture, white feminism, media, education, appropriation and injustice.
Everyone needs to read this. This is the kind of book that should be taught in a curriculum. A must-read for intersectional feminists, especially white women trying to be allies.
Sikivu Hutchinson is amazing. I first heard of her online as I coming to grips with being an atheist and all that entails. She's changed my life once again. If you don't follow her or read her work, you should.