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Billy
French, Albert.
Adult Fiction FRENCH

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From Publishers' Weekly:

A talented writer makes his debut in this stark, harrowing novel of a young black boy's death. Forcefully told, though sometimes veering into melodrama, the story vivifies the consequences of racial hatred. In 1937, in the small town of Banes, Miss., 10-year-old Billy Lee Turner lives with his mother in one of the miserable shanties of the black ghetto called the Patch. Headstrong Billy convinces another youngster to enter the white area of town, where they are attacked by teenaged cousins who are enraged to see black boys in ``their'' pond. Seeking to escape, Billy impulsively stabs one of the girls; she dies, and the white community works itself into a paroxysm of rage and violence. Though Billy is too young to comprehend what he has done, he is sentenced to the electric chair. The insistent voice of the narrator--convincingly rural, unlettered, and lower class--propels the narrative at a frantic pace, and the characters are delineated through vernacular dialogue that reproduces the unvarnished racism of most of the white community and the routinely profane interchanges of the uneducated blacks. Though nearly every scene is rendered with high-glare intensity, the closing episodes set in the Death House are especially searing. If in his need to sustain a feverish atmosphere French scants subtleties, the novel pulses with its unnerving vision of inhumanity legalized under the name of justice. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

This debut novel chronicles the life of ten-year-old Billy Lee, who is executed for murdering a white girl in the town of Banes, Mississippi, in 1937. The story is related objectively in a regional dialect by a narrator who takes us into our country's recent past to witness the appalling effects of racism. This masterful style portrays a brutal and, at times, pitiful small town caught in the grip of segregation. French's stirring focus on details affords an empathic perception of events and characters, especially of Sheriff Tom and Billy's mother, Cinder. The short scene when Billy is captured is a skillful example of French's fine detail and dazzling style. The harrowing prison scenes, the absurd complications experienced by the guards when they strap Billy's small body into the high-backed electric chair, and the riveting description of the execution will leave readers numb. Highly recommended for all libraries.-- David A. Berona, Westbrook Coll. Lib., Portland, Me. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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