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4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  204 ratings  ·  30 reviews
Albert French's harrowing debut novel of 10-year-old Billy Lee Turner, convicted and executed for murdering a white girl in Baines, Mississippi, in 1937, is an unsentimental and ultimately heartrending vision of racial injustice. "A work of art . . . Billy never lets up, not for one minute. . . . magnificent".--New York Daily News.
Paperback, 224 pages
Published February 1st 1995 by Penguin Books (first published 1993)
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Billy, is the story of ten-year-old Billy Lee Turner who strays into the white area of his little Southern town with another boy in the 1930's. They are immediately set upon by two white teenagers who become enraged at the sight of black kids wading in a backyard pond. Attempting to protect himself, Billy stabs one of the teenagers. When the teenager dies, the entire white community thirsts for vengeance.

"Albert French's novel ... is told in the voice of an anonymous, omniscient narrator whose...more
Billy is a colloquial tale, powerfully told. The dialogue is tremendously rich. The scenic mood... porch-sitters, patch girls, and all that laughin' and talkin' porch talk, tryin' to outtalk the hollerin' is painted on so deliciously thick I think I could even pick out the back roads... and I've only been to Mississippi once. It's the type of prose that had me thinking, "what a fine piece of Renaissance Art." But here's where I dithered.

It was the message. I found it difficult keeping my attent...more
Wow. Powerful. And the writing -- it clearly evokes time, place, people, the south. Loved, loved, loved the writing style, the brilliance with which it was done. The writing is the best and most unusual and most gifted example I've seen of fitting the story for all the above reasons. Easy to read, simple and yet somehow poetic language in a most honest kind of way. The reader will feel this story, feel the terror, love, emotions, hopelessness, tenderness, anger, hatred, ignorance, sorrow, all of...more
good, saddest book ever
(FROM JACKET)Albert French lights up the monstrous face of American racism in this harrowing tale of ten-year-old Billy Lee Turner, who is convicted of and executed for murdering a white girl in Banes County, Mississippi, in 1937. BILLY is about the deaths of two children, one girl, one boy, the girl's death an accident, the boy's murder perpetrated by the state. Though the events BILLY records occur during the 1930s in a small Mississippi town, the range of characters, em...more
Sheena  at Hot Eats and Cool Reads
I cannot say enough good things about the way this book was written. Billy Lee Turner is a 10 year old boy who lives in the South during the late 1930's. He gets convicted and executed for a tragic accident where he killed a white girl who was bullying him. This book is so intense because of the racial tension in the South during that time, and a poor little boy who doesn't even realize what he did was wrong, and just wants to go home. He was wrongly executed at such a young age, but there was n...more
Hmmm................. This is a book. Real... it is such a shame what became of Billy. He should never have crossed over. Always do what your mama says. If only he had adhered to the teachings of his mother,... he would not have lost his life, liberty and youth.
Tis a very big Shame.

I cried... I could feel all the pain.. hear all the voices live..It was obvious to all that he did not know what went down.. but then Justice at that time and place was always blinded. I do hope the Sheriff and all ot...more
This book was outstanding and heartfelt. I fought back tears reading this book. There were emotions of sorrow and rage while reading about a community's response to a tragedy.

“I get angry about things, then go on and work.” —Toni Morrison

This explains my feelings after finishing this book. It was weighing so heavy on my heart that I decided to write about some of the messages that Mr. French is talking about within this novel. It caused me to examine our reaction to tragedy today. Often there i...more
Mojo Jojo
Sometimes you read a book review and such and such book is described as "harrowing." This is a harrowing book, and somehow it is shot through with optimism. I asked a French woman who was working in the Franco-Americain Institute library what her favorite book in the library was, and so I came to read Billy. The Mississippi dialect settles in comfortable after a few pages, and you feel like you're down South, just a-sittin' on the porch. Excellent.
This was a good look at racism and its horrible consequences. It is a very emotional book, especially if you have children. The author does a very good job of showing how powerful racism can be, and how it can drive a community of reasonably good people into being vengeful, unfeeling monsters. The end was absolutely tragic and completely avoidable, if people had not let racist hate blind them from reason.
Mr. French's debut is a classic tale of racial injustice. It tells the story of 10 year old Billy who is unjusticely accused of murdering a white girl and ultimately executed for the crime. Mr. French, who is a cousin of fellow Pittsburgh author, John Edgar Wideman, weaves a heart-wrenching, unsentimental and unapologetic work of art.
A little hard to read at first but once you get used to the way it's written it's an easy read. Really displays racism. There are a lot of characters and it gets a little confusing but over all is an amazing book.
emi Bevacqua
I didn't really sympathize with anybody in this book; on the contrary I felt like the characters were written for me to pity, and that just didn't work for me. This was no To Kill A Mockingbird, or In Cold Blood.
Pamela Judge
Oct 28, 2007 Pamela Judge rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Anyone
A heart-rending story. Exceptionally well-written. It brings out a full range of emotions in the reader. I often had to stop reading because I was crying.

I highly recommend this book.

Cassandra Hawkins-Wilson
This book made me think of my own two boys, 3 and 8. This book left my heart aching. Yet, the reality of this fictional novel is the truth that young boys were killed and still are killed like this.
You know what's going to happen from the beginning, but this book really affected me. I bawled like a baby. It might be because I'm the mother of two boys, but it really got to me.
Its a very good book. I really got a connection with the characters. The story is very unfair and sad, yet I could not put the book down. It would definitely recommended it.
What is fair punishment for an underage boy raised in poverty & racial animostiy? I found this book to be very sad & tragic.
This book made me want to become a writer. It simply tore my heart out. I couldn't stop crying. Beautiful.
Stacey Vanhouten
what a great book. weeper, although you already know the outcome, the story grips and keeps you.
Dawn Stanton
this book will tear your heart out...written so beautifully, it will stay with you forever.
This book broke my heart. I was in tears by the end. Beautifully written but so sad.
Mary Beth
A truly sad view of what can happen when the legal system is mismanaged.
This story made me cry! An amazing read, highly recommended!!!
Amazing Book....Albert French's work is remarkable
raw, incensing, beautiful. i'll never read it again.
Amazing story....very sad
Jesus gets me!
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