Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson

Reading this novel was like studying a piece of art. It makes the reader feel a gamut of emotions and like a connect-the-dots, you try to figure out how it all comes together. And though it doesn't tie itself up in a tidy bow in the end--this is about real life, after all, you're somehow left feeling satisfied.

You walk away from it with your life more enriched than before the book appeared in your hands.

In a nutshell: an African-American woman is trying to make it as a lawyer with the NAACP, working for Thurgood himself. She has a lot to prove. In her case, it's not so much white people standing in her way, but men in general. Even her own co-worker scoffs at a woman lawyer. So when she goes down to Mississippi aka the Jim Crow South to investigate a tragic case, she must succeed.

'Sides, something about that soldier in the picture is speaking to her.

That soldier was a decorated WWII Veteran coming home from Italy. That soldier was asked to give up his seat on the bus to a Nazi POW. Why? Because his skin was dark.

That soldier refused and he was beaten to death. And that's the case. Welcome to Mississippi, eh?

What a hateful time that was. Enter a bigoted, wealthy woman who claims she's doing all she can but really won't go against the white folks'. I did not like Ms. Calhoun and the only reason I'm taking away a star is I feel I missed something with her. I couldn't figure out why Regina warmed to her. The lady was a racist who wouldn't even address Regina appropriately with a miss. I felt like the woman was confused about what she believed and perhaps that was the intended effect. The lady didn't really do anything for anyone; just tried not to make waves when waves needed to be made. Darned placed needed a typhoon.

Enter the time of segregation, separate drinking fountains, and a world in which if you're rich and white, you can do as well please, including commit murder and walk away.

We meet a variety of characters, but my favorite was def Regina. What a strong, amazing woman, a woman who doesn't get scared and run away, but keeps on facing things down as she tries to get justice for a man she never knew. All around her, nobody gives a straight answer to anything. The mystery is riddles, vague references, insinuations.

What was important to Regina was that she'd gone into that courthouse. She'd gone up those stairs all by herself and she'd asked for what she wanted. Openly, in plain view of anybody standing there watching, she--Regina Mary Robichard--had defied that Confederate flag.

I can't say I always understood the references to the old published book either. But I enjoyed this story tremendously. We must never forget this stuff really happened, that white men pulled black men off buses and beat 'em to death, that hatred ruled an entire group of people, that others stood up for themselves and sought justice, that there was hope in a time where there didn't appear to be any reason for it.

I gotta add this story also--as inappropriate as this will seem, it is a frustrating and enraging and sad tale--made me laugh. Those Southerners and their Raginas. LOL

I'm not going to summarize anything more. There's action, history, laughter, tears, and at times, you'll scream with rage and want to throw the book against a wall, but it's an important piece of history and I think this author found a fantastic way of sharing it with us. Oh--and DO read the author's note at the end. It's fascinating, as she talks about her grandfather fighting for equal pay in Missouri, the real-life and very sad case about the soldier, and Constance Baker Motley, the lady lawyer for the NAACP who inspired Regina's character. Constance was a real trailblazer and I guarantee that after reading this story, you'll want to find out more about her.

I won this on LibraryThing.

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