November 25, 2023

Tulsa Burning by Anna Myers

This came through the library in delivery the other day and I decided to give it a look-see. I'd heard of it, but I'd never seen a copy. It wasn't very long, so I figured I could finish it pretty quickly. It is 151 pages. I knew it was about the Tulsa Race Massacre, but that is all. Yesterday was slow at work, so I started it. I read half of it yesterday and finished it today.

We are following 15 year old Noble chase who lives on a farm outside Wekiwa, Oklahoma. In the author's note Myers states that there is no Wekiwa, Oklahoma. I bet the people of Wekiwa Township would be surprised to hear that. Yes, it's pretty well swallowed up by Sand Springs, now, but it's still on the map.

At the beginning of the story Noble (called Nobe) and his mother are burying his father. His father was mean and drunk most of the time. Nobe is not sorry he's gone, except that now they have to move. His mother has taken a position at the Sheriff's house, caring for his ailing wife. Nobe has to go too. The Sheriff is not a drunk but he is mean. (Fair warning: the dog dies on the page. It's mentioned in the summary on the book, so you know going in.)

We meet a bunch of the townspeople and neighbors in the country, both black and white. Some whites are bigoted and angry and some are not. Guess which one the Sheriff is. One day the preacher comes racing into town from Tulsa where he witnessed the beginning of the Tulsa Race Massacre. This is where the action really takes off.

Myers was raised in Oklahoma and still lives in Tulsa. This is clear in her writing. I'd like to believe that her use of the word "of" instead "have" is an artistic choice, but when even the schoolteacher uses it, I have to wonder. "I wish I would of listened to you." Yeah, that's how it sounds when we say it, but that's not what it is.

The plot had some parts that were unlikely, but they led to a pretty good time so I'll allow it. And some of the plot pieces felt like a little much. Whenever something good happened, a really bad thing happened right after, which felt a little manipulative. On the other hand, it was just the right amount of angst for a YA novel, which this is.

Overall, it was a gripping story about a kid learning about race relations and the feelings of the people in his life as well as how to do what's right when the chips are down. I'm giving this one 8 bookmarks.