In the Neigh­bor­hood of True

Susan Kaplan Carlton

  • Review
By – July 22, 2019

In the Neigh­bor­hood of True is a com­ing-of-age tale set in the 1950s South that ties Judaism, the Civ­il Rights move­ment, grief, and high school pol­i­tics togeth­er in a way that feels most­ly effort­less and com­plete­ly sin­cere. After the death of her father, Ruth’s moth­er has moved her and her younger sis­ter out of New York and back to her orig­i­nal fam­i­ly home in Atlanta for a fresh start. When Ruth begins to be includ­ed in the pop­u­lar group of girls in her high school, she decides to keep the fact that she is Jew­ish a secret, as she longs to be accept­ed into their Chris­t­ian social group.

That secret becomes hard­er and hard­er to keep as she becomes more involved with her tem­ple and the civ­il rights efforts her rab­bi is spear­head­ing. She falls eas­i­ly into both groups — with the soci­ety girls who take class­es in eti­quette, go to foot­ball games, and date good-look­ing boys, and with the mem­bers of her tem­ple, her new­found Jew­ish base. And of course the tugs on her heart are not help­ful — with the hand­some and roman­tic Davis tak­ing a shine to her right away, while intel­li­gent and com­pli­cat­ed Max argues (see flirts) with her” every chance he gets.

But Ruth strug­gles; to let go of her grief over los­ing her father, to keep her secret from all her friends, and to bal­ance all of that with the soci­ety events com­ing up, her ever-grow­ing attach­ment to the boy her Mom already doesn’t like, and the nag­ging feel­ing in her gut that tells her she’s doing every­thing just a lit­tle wrong. And while Ruth has her inter­nal strug­gles, bub­bling under­neath the sur­face of a kind and friend­ly town lurks the fear of the Oth­er — and that fear and anger makes itself known loud­ly and dangerously.

Ruth has to fig­ure out who she is and what she stands for, and on that jour­ney, she makes mis­takes and allies. High school is hard enough, but Ruth is deter­mined to find the right place for her­self — even if that means los­ing some very impor­tant peo­ple. But how much is Ruth will­ing to lose to be her most authen­tic self?

Evie Saphire-Bern­stein is the pro­gram direc­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil. She grad­u­at­ed from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Illi­nois at Chica­go with a B.A. in Eng­lish and a minor in Jew­ish Stud­ies. Before join­ing the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil team in 2015, she spent a year and a half work­ing with­in the Con­ser­v­a­tive Move­ment as the Net­work Liai­son for the Schechter Day School Net­work. She is a recent trans­plant to New York City, after liv­ing in Chica­go for most of her life. In her spare time, Evie is a writer and blogger.

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