Ginny Gall

"We all been scared. We been scared to death over here for the last three hundred years. All day every day," Delvin Walker thinks. Novelist and poet Charlie Smith (Jump Soul) finds rich inspiration in the Scottsboro Boys cases as he depicts the volatile struggles of Southern blacks during the Depression in his novel Ginny Gall.

Delvin's mother abandons him in Chattanooga, Tenn., at age five when she flees murder accusations. Mr. Oliver, the local Negro mortician, takes him in, teaching his protégé about literature, preparing the dead and human nature. In the funeral home, under the wing of his mentor, Delvin thrives. But an encounter with a group of white boys during a hunting excursion leaves Delvin believing he's in mortal danger. So he takes to the rails to escape.

Through Delvin's travels as a teenager, Smith details the South in all its natural beauty and man-made hideousness. The trains and their castaways hum with the heartbeat of a struggling nation. It is on one of these trains that Delvin and his fellow African American drifters find themselves accused of raping two white women, and this time Delvin can't escape the charges.

Smith's lyrical prose composes a strong sense of place--combined with the book's title, meaning "Hell"--as well as a vivacious soul in his protagonist. Devlin's world is a constant threat to him, creating the haunting undertones of his life's story. His determination reminds readers that character is not defined by skin color. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

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