Review of Seagull: A Southern Novel by Lawton Paul

Seagull: A Southern Novel by Lawton Paul is a young adult historical novel set in the 1980s Northern Florida. This coming of age novel has cross-over appeal to an adult audience. The fears, anxieties and conflicts that the likable main character encounters feel genuine and immediate. The supporting characters lend plenty of texture, and the river landscape is real enough to smell. The action moves quickly, if perhaps too telescopically quickly near the end. The grammar is untidy. If this is deliberate to reflect the main character’s vulnerable but growing-in-strength point of view, then curse the critic and laud the writer. It’s certainly not Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull, but it is a solidly entertaining read.

Book Review of the Sweet Trade

Hard working authors deserve a lot of credit, and it’s my goal to provide reviews from time to time in this space. One type of novel I especially admire the young adult novel that crosses over to adult novel. The Sweet Trade by Debrah Strait is an historical YA novel that grown-ups can relish, too.

The Sweet Trade flies open mid-action and the pace never flags for a second. It’s fierce, fast, fun, unsettling and riveting, with a wild cast of intriguing characters and a sense of historic truth. In one aspect, the novel is a coming of age tale set in a fascinating era of nation-state conflicts at sea and the role pirates played in a war-related economy. Hard-driving, hard-striving main character Dirk sets the bar high in battle and in romantic endeavors, so naturally conflict abounds. On a deep level, the novel explores one man’s battle to preserve decency, loyalty and his very humanity in a trade where both honor and dishonor are dangerous things. When an author does the work of vast research, meticulous character development and intricate plot weaving, the reader can simply enjoy the journey. The Sweet Trade is a delightful sail on fair winds and a following sea. Give me the sequel now.

February and Friendship

In honor of Black History Month, allow me to share a few words I wrote a long time ago about friendship and prejudice from a lesser known but important author of the late 19th and early 20th centuries:
In itself, prejudice is an obstacle which few people can surmount. As an intellectual, set apart from the majority of his social contacts simply because of his interests, Chesnutt experienced another sense of isolation in his unfulfilled need for intimacy. In his journal he states:
“I hear colored men speak of their ‘white friends.’ I have no white friends. I could not degrade the sacred name of ‘friendship’ by associating it with any man who feels himself too good to sit at a table with me, or to sleep at the same hotel… I hope yet to have a friend. If not in this world, then in some distant eon, when men are emancipated from the grossness of flesh, and mind can seek out mind; then shall I find some kindred spirit, who will sympathize with all that is purest and best in mine, and we will cement a friendship that shall endure throughout the ages.”*

Charles W Chesnutt
Charles W Chesnutt, African American author, essayist, political activist and lawyer

*J. Noel Heermance, Charles W. Chesnutt (Hamden, Connecticut: Show String Press, 1974), p. 61
This excerpt is from my Honors Thesis, “Charles Waddell Chesnutt: Short Fiction on the Color Line”

How do kids benefit from reading historical fiction? Answer 3

“Authors of historical fiction provide young readers with the human side of history, making it more real and more memorable.”

(Lynch-Brown, Essentials of Children’s Literature, 2008)
Source: Oklahoma State University Library: Historical Fiction for Young People: Home: Why Read Historical Fiction: Three Opinions

How do kids benefit from reading historical fiction? Answer 2

“Every book set in the past invites a comparison with the present. Opportunities for critical thinking and judgment are built into the many novels that provide conflicting views on an issue and force characters to make hard choices… Historical perspective also helps children see and judge the mistakes of the past.” (Charlotte Huck’s Children’s Literature, 2009)

Source: Oklahoma State University Library: Historical Fiction for Young People: Home: Why Read Historical Fiction: Three Opinions

How do kids benefit from reading historical fiction? Answer 1

“Reading historical novels satisfies our curiosity about other times, places, and people… it provides adventure, suspense, and mystery… and to teach particular lessons. (Nilson et al. Literature for Today’s Young Adults, 2013)

Source: Oklahoma State University Library: Historical Fiction for Young People: Home: Why Read Historical Fiction: Three Opinions

What qualifies as historical fiction? Answer 2

“For a writer to create a historical novel, it’s not enough to take a generic character and put him or her on the Titanic or in ancient Egypt. The character has to act like someone who lived in the period and place, with the values and attitudes of people in that times.” (M. Rabey, Historical Fiction for Teens, 2011)

Source: Oklahoma State University Library: Historical Fiction for Young People: Home

What qualifies as historical fiction? Answer 1

It’s a matter of perspective, some think.

“Teen readers often consider anything that happened before they were born to be ancient history. Teen readers I asked considered stories set in the 1980s and prior to be historical fiction.” (D.T. Herald, Teen Genreflecting 3, 2011)
Source: Oklahoma State University Library: Historical Fiction for Young People: Home