Title: A Good Neighbourhood
Author: Therese Anne Fowler
Pages: 311 Pages
In Oak Knoll, a tight-knit North Carolina neighbourhood, professor of forestry and ecology Valerie Alston-Holt is raising her bright and talented biracial son. All is well until the Whitmans move in next door – an apparently traditional family with new money, ambition, and a secretly troubled teenage daughter. With little in common except a property line, these two very different families quickly find themselves at odds over an historic oak tree in Valerie’s yard. But as they fight, they fail to notice that there is a romance blossoming between their two teenagers. A romance that will challenge the carefully constructed concepts of class and race in this small community. A romance that might cause everything to shatter…
A Good Neighbourhood is a bold novel about disguised racism in a small town in North Carolina.
It centres on two neighbouring families: The Aston Holt’s – Valerie and her son Xavier and The Whitman’s – local businessman Brad, his wife Julia and their two daughters. Xavier and eldest daughter Juniper have started to have feelings for each other but by embarking on a relationship they are crossing the divide of class, politics and race.
Fowler has taken a risk with this A Good Neighbourhood. Often authors are criticised for writing outside of the boundaries of ‘what they know’ – Fowler, as a white woman – cannot fully understand racism because racism is so internal and institutionalised therefore her writing cannot be ‘real’. However, to not write about racism is worse. It is almost to ignore it and disregard it as a topic because it doesn’t directly affect her. As you can see, writers are often in a no win situation.
I think Fowler handled the subject of racial division in a very sensitive manner. She shows just how internalised and institutionalised it can be and shows how much of a problem it is especially in specific states in America. We know it is a problem but when it is highlighted – by someone of whatever race – it is surely a good thing if it helps raise awareness and will hopefully – one day insight change.
A Good Neighbourhood by Therese Anne Fowler is available now.
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