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3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  338 ratings  ·  67 reviews
Alabama, 1931. A posse stops a freight train and arrests nine black youths. Their crime: fighting with white boys. Then two white girls emerge from another freight car, and within seconds the cry of rape goes up. One of the girls sticks to her story. The other changes her tune, again and again. A young journalist, whose only connection to the incident is her overheated soc...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published by Picador USA (first published 2008)
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This book is hard - going due to the subject matter. Yet it is fascinating in its portrayal of the accusation and trial of 9 black men from Alabama for raping 2 white girls.

It is written almost as a documentary. The book is a novel but is written following all the legal trials, appeals, jury selections etc with precision and clipped prose which gives a newspaper report feel to it.

The main character is a female journalist who is from New York. She goes to Alabama to cover the story and meets one...more
I'd only ever heard about the Scottsboro boys in passing before reading this book, which is shocking now that I think about it. I'd heard about the town of Scottsboro, Alabama, the setting of an infamous trial in which nine African American boys were convicted on sketchy evidence for raping two white girls. But that's really all I knew about it.

As one might expect, there's a lot more to this story. Feldman traces the incidents from aboard the freight train in 1931 on through to the many trials,...more
Ellen Feldman seamlessly weaves historical perspective into a myriad tapestry of the mores of a small Southern town that not only provided insight into black and white lives, but also how poverty alters truth as easily as racism.

As nine black youths travelled in the Alabama Great Southern Railroad freight cars on an early spring day in 1931, a historical event of reprehensible proportions was about to alter their lives forever. What began as a simple misunderstanding quickly exacerbated into an...more
I'm not usually a fan of historical fiction when it comes to horrors like this but Ellen Feldman had me hooked by page one.
Funny thing about Ellen Feldman's novels (this is the 2nd I've read): they grip me totally, I learn an immense amount from them, their political and moral heart is in absolutely the right place--but emotionally, they leave me cold. I never feel the pain and joy of their protagonists, perhaps because of the repertorial prose that's used to describe them. I suppose that's fair enough in this case, given the main protagonist is a journalist herself, and a WASP to boot, but Ruby Bates never really c...more
David Ward
Scottsboro by Ellen Feldman (W.W. Norton & Co. 2008)(Historical Fiction) is a retelling in novel form of the Southern tragedy of "The Scottsboro Boys." In Alabama in 1931, nine black youth ages 13 through 19 were accused of raping two white women on a freight train. One woman soon recanted, and it quickly became obvious that the story was not true. The boys were each convicted by an all-white jury; it took until the last part of the 20th century before the last man was freed and exhonerated...more
Each generation of Americans, and indeed each decade, seems to have its own trial of the century. The 20th century had many. Sacco and Vanzetti, the Lindbergh Baby kidnapping and murder trial, Fatty Arbuckle's murder trial, and of course the O.J. Simpson murder trial are just a few.

In the 1930s none were bigger than the trial of the Scottsboro boys for raping two white women on a freight train. The trouble with this trial was the nine Scottsboro boys were tried and sentenced to death for a crime...more
There have been enough reviews already of this book so there's no need to go into a summary of what it is about. As a true outsider, ie not an American, I am in no position to judge whether the Alabama voice of Ruby Bates is authentic, or whether the physical and economic context is realistic. I would imagine a lot is and some isn't because there are details that will always escape an author, all efforts to get things right notwithstanding.

What I wondered, in reading it, was what was the purpose...more
Wisteria Leigh
When you read Ellen Feldman� s book Scottsboro you savor each page like a vintage wine. The story is so mesmerizing tendrils seem to wrap around your chair, so chillingly real you become frozen it its truth, and so poetically lyrical you have no doubt that you are hearing the cadence of the colorful Southern speech. Unfortunately, color in the Southern world is only black and white. Unfortunately, the truth in Scottsboro is always grey.[return][return]This work of historical fiction is based on...more
A tragic tale of poor whites punishing even poorer blacks for their own helplessness in the face of the grinding poverty of the 1930's. Ellen Feldman provides an atmospheric setting for this true story - she portrays the pervasive fear that generated the reactionary and mindless persecution of this group of young black men.
The book is set in an Alabama that is still coming to terms with losing the civil war. It is in part due to this that the state is so relentless in the 'bringing to justice' o...more
In 1931, two girls hopped a freight train to Chattanooga and set off a chain of events that ruined their lives and the lives of nine other people.

This is the novelization of the real-life ugliness that was the trial of the Scottsboro "boys;" nine men convicted of rape (eight of whom were sentenced to die in the electric chair). It isn't just about the accused men. It isn't even mostly about them. Scottsboro speaks in two alternating voices - that of Alice Whittier, a reporter from New York sent...more
John Grinstead
I was attracted to this by my fascination with the growth of Black America...let's hope it pushes a few buttons! As it turns out, this was a really good read which developed the central characters well and provided a few challenges regarding not only their own personailties, their flaws, strengths and weaknessses but also asked some searching questions as to who held/holds responsibility for the attitudes of the day. It also makes one think about how far a country - or at least a confederation o...more
This book is based on a true story, an accusation of rape against a group of young African Americans by a white woman in 1930s Alabama. The original case was the inspiration for the novel "To Kill a Mockingbird." The novel focuses on a group of New Yorkers who take up the cause of the young men who were falsely accused of rape, and on one of the female accusers (there were originally two), who changes her story and denies that she was raped. The novel does a good job of showing the differences i...more
A fictionalised retelling of a true crime tale which spans the 1930s to the 1970s. A group of white guys in southern USA pick a fight on a train with a bunch of black guys then tell the authorities it happened the other way round. Adding to the story are 2 white trash young women who claimed they were gang raped on said train by the black men. And so starts a very sad story where the lives of this group of young men are ruined by the lies of people who claim superiority because of the colour of...more
Catherine Siemann
Jul 30, 2009 Catherine Siemann rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Catherine by: Ellen R., Orange Prize shortlist
This novel, written primarily from the viewpoint of Alice Whittier, a (fictional) Northern reporter from a privileged background writing for a labor/communist paper, and secondarily by Ruby Bates, one of the (actual) Scottsboro accusers, gives an interesting window into the "Scottsboro boys" case and the many, many trials that ensue. Whittier is sympathetic, caring, yet still quite distanced from the events, even when she's making them her personal crusade. Bates's limitations -- the small world...more
I picked up a few of the Orange Prize longlisted titles, including this one. I liked the look of it, because it didn't seem typically Orange, typically womens fiction.

And it wasn't. But it wasn't great for me either. I read too much like a factual book, not enough like a novel. I've read a few novels that have fictionalised a real event, and it can be a great way to allow the reader access.

I did like the creation of the central female journalist character, and also the parts told from the persp...more
An interesting take on the Socttsboro Boys story as a novel. But I'm not sure I liked the way it bounced around from one to another of the characters.

An enjoyable read (although enjoyable is probably the wrong word, given that it's based on an appalling miscarriage of justice.)
I registered a book at!
Historical fiction. I am ashamed to say that I knew nothing about this case or its implications. I vaguely have heard of the Scottsboro boys and knew it was not a pleasant chapter of American history but I never made the effort to learn more about them. This book was a good primer on the events. The authour focused on a female reporter and wisely stuck to that voice. I felt that the book read fair. I am very eager to get to the hard facts on this. Not because the author white-washed details but...more
A very good novel...brings to life the appalling injustice of segregation, from two very different viewpoints. Because one is a journalist, you can also get a sense of the bigger picture without it turning into a history lesson. I liked that both the main characters were flawed and there was no easy resolution. The 'Scottsboro boys' themselves were too often forgotten in the struggle, but they also feature prominently here. The ending is inevitably sad, reminding the reader of how much things ch...more
Deborah Swift
Fiercely intelligent re-telling of the Scottsboro trial in which nine black youths were accused of a rape they did not commit. A fine investigation into not just racism but sexism, greed, political manoevering and how the media massages the truth. I loved the way Feldman made the characters voices so real that I felt I was in the room with them. The only reason this is not a 5 star review is because the type in this edition was very small and dense and the layout made it a struggle to read.(Publ...more
David Yarrow
This is great historical fiction. It must be a real challenge to make historical figures come to life, but that is exactly what Ellen Feldman has done. I love this book!
Andrea MacPherson
The actual story--the skeleton of the novel--was what drew me in: nine black men accused of rape by two white women in Alabama,1931.

So much promise! But the narrative fell flat to me, leaving me distanced from the characters and their stories. The female main character, a journalist, could have been the emotional core of the novel, but I did not feel engaged with her. The narrative felt too dispassionate for the subject matter, and ultimately felt unsuccessful.
This book was great, a very evocative depiction of the events of the Scottsboro case. It really highlighted all the different political viewpoints and the way the Scottsboro case was used for different agendas, while at the same time keeping the sense of humanity and never forgetting the terrible miscarriages of justice done to the nine boys. It is written very well with alternating narrative voices and all in all, is a very compelling read.
Missy Cahill
The injustice these young men faced, makes you sick to your stomach. It's a brilliant read, which will have you shaking your head at people's prejudices and how ill educated they were. Racism is sadly still prevalent across the globe, but hopefully one day it will be just a distant memory.

Ellen Feldman has a fantastic way of getting into character's heads and making them jump off the page. She's a brilliant and truly creative writer.
I picked up Ellen Feldman's most recent book 'Next to Love' and realized she had been short listed for the Orange Prize for 'Scottsboro' instead so I read that first. I loved the book, particularly the mix of carefully researched historical fact and believable fictional characters that made the time and place/s come alive. It grabbed me from the first page and didn't let go till the last. Can't wait to start on the next one.
In my opinion I would give this book a 3.5, but I will bump it up to 4 because it was an historical/fiction of a true story back in the 1930's. It makes you think of the "law system" . Nine young black boys were falsely accused of rape to two young white girls. It boils down to say that we and the court system has come a long way.
This is my second book by Ellen Feldman and I like her writing. (library)
I didn't think I would enjoy this book, but read it as it was on the Orange Shortlist. I would recommend the book, although enjoy probably isn't the right word. This case of the Scottsboro Boys is what Harper Lee based "To Kill a Mockingbird" on, so worth reading to get a more factual version of what really went on in the deep south in the 1930s.
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Ellen Feldman, a 2009 Guggenheim fellow, is the author of Scottsboro, The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank, and Lucy. She writes both fiction and social history, and has published articles on the history of divorce, plastic surgery, Halloween, the Normandie, and many other topics, as well as numerous book reviews. She has also lectured extensively around the country and in Germany and England, and is a so...more
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