A powerful story of love, identity, and the price of fitting in or speaking out.
After her father’s death, Ruth Robb and her family transplant themselves in the summer of 1958 from New York City to Atlanta—the land of debutantes, sweet tea, and the Ku Klux Klan. In her new hometown, Ruth quickly figures out she can be Jewish or she can be popular, but she can’t be both. Eager to fit in with the blond girls in the “pastel posse,” Ruth decides to hide her religion. Before she knows it, she is falling for the handsome and charming Davis and sipping Cokes with him and his friends at the all-white, all-Christian Club.
Does it matter that Ruth’s mother makes her attend services at the local synagogue every week? Not as long as nobody outside her family knows the truth. At temple Ruth meets Max, who is serious and intense about the fight for social justice, and now she is caught between two worlds, two religions, and two boys. But when a violent hate crime brings the different parts of Ruth’s life into sharp conflict, she will have to choose between all she’s come to love about her new life and standing up for what she believes.
Thoughts on the Book
“The story may be set in the past, but it couldn’t be a more timely reminder that true courage comes not from fitting in, but from purposefully standing out . . . and that to find out who you really are, you have to first figure out what you’re not.” —Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of A Spark of Light and Small Great Things
“gorgeous story about a teenage girl finding her voice in the face of hate, heartbreak, and injustice” —Nova Ren Suma, #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Room Away from the Wolves
“Carlton captures the racism, anti-Semitism, and social interactions of the time and place with admirable nuance. The dialogue and setting are meticulously constructed, and readers will feel the humidity and tension rising with each chapter.” — Publisher’s Weekly; starred review
In the Neighborhood of True is a captivating novel based on the 1958 bombing of Hebrew Benevolent Congregation Temple. As Atlanta’s first official Jewish institution The Temple not only served as a beacon within the Jewish community, but under the leadership of Rabbi Jacob Rothschild it also was a center for social justice and the burgeoning civil rights movement.
Carlton manages to capture this fraughtful time through the eyes of a Jewish girl coming of age in the wake of her father’s death. Ruth is smitten with the debutante scene and the handsome young Davis Jefferson. She is warned by her grandmother that her Jewishness might set her apart from the in-crowd and so at first she “passes” for Christian. But as time goes by she realizes that her lies of omission are a wedge between her and true acceptance by her new friends. Ultimately, she must decide which side she wants to be on — somewhere “in the neighborhood of true” where no one knows who she really is — or on the side of truth and justice and doing what’s right.
Meet the Author
From the author’s website:
“I grew up in San Francisco and its suburbs, went to college in Portland, Oregon and interned in the White House. From there, I got a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University and worked in magazines—Self, Elle, Mademoiselle, and others. That may explain my perennial crush on polka dots, poodles, and vintage stores.
A while ago, my family moved to Atlanta where we became members of a temple not so very different from the one in In the Neighborhood of True. We were welcomed with a hearty “Shabbat shalom, y’all,” but the memories of what happened there still reverberated. Our younger daughter attended Sunday school in one of the classrooms that had been bombed decades before. And the hate has continued to echo. In 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia, where our older daughter is in school, white nationalists brandished torches in front of Thomas Jefferson’s rotunda, yelling, “Jews will not replace us.” And then the next year in Pittsburgh, eleven congregants were shot during Saturday morning services. I watched the unfolding horror on TV news with my eighty-eight-year-old father, remembering the bat mitzvah the whole family had attended at a different synagogue nearby. As the names of the dead were read, I kept thinking that my dad could have been one of them. And then I thought, it could have been any of us—over and over, across decades and state lines.
These days, I teach writing at Boston University and write young adult novels about complicated girls in complicated times. My husband and I have moved our two amusing and good-natured daughters up and down the East Coast. We now live in Hanover, New Hampshire, where we think we’ll stay.”