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Wolf Whistle

4.02  ·  Rating Details ·  770 Ratings  ·  95 Reviews
Born and raised in the Mississippi Delta, novelist Lewis Nordan was fifteen years old the summer two white men from the next town were tried for the murder of a black boy who wolf-whistled at a white woman. The boy's name was Emmett Till and the year his murderers were tried (and acquitted) was 1955. In the thirty-eight years since, that white adolescent's impressions of w ...more
Kindle Edition
Published (first published January 10th 1993)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jeffrey Keeten
Mar 07, 2015 Jeffrey Keeten rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jeffrey by: Lawyer
Shelves: southern

***4.5 stars out of 5***

“The Mississippi Delta is not always dark with rain. Some autumn mornings, the sun rises over Moon Lake, or Eagle, or Choctaw, or Blue, or Roebuck, all the wide, deep waters of the state, and when it does, its dawn is as rosy with promise and hope as any other.”

 photo Wolf20Whistle_zpsc0gxb0xu.jpg
Scene of the original Wolf Whistle that inspired this novel.

It is sometimes hard to comprehend such racism, such hate existing in a place capable of so much beauty. I would like to think that the allure of the na
...more
Connie
Lewis Nordan shows us a 1955 rural Mississippi Delta town, and how its inhabitants have been impacted by the lynching of Bobo, a 14-year-old black boy from Chicago. The real murder of Emmett Till, who allegedly wolf whistled or flirted with a white woman, was the inspiration for this book.

The book weaves a story about the people living in Arrow Catcher, mostly poor whites and even poorer blacks. There is a culture of racism, violence, and alcoholism. A bit of the Southern Gothic comes through wi
...more
Diane Barnes
Feb 25, 2015 Diane Barnes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Horrible, haunting and hilarious, those three adjectives are not usually used together to describe a book, but Wolf Whistle is certainlly all of those, and more. To say this is a fictionalized version of the death of Emmet Till in Mississippi does not come close to conveying the truth. When the facts of the murder are carried around in the mind and heart of Lewis Nordan for many years and then brought forth again in a novel, the result is mind-blowing. The fourth grade field trips led by Miss Al ...more
Jamie
May 07, 2013 Jamie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nothing about this should work, nothing, but God Almighty, so help me, it does. The white-trash telling of Emmett Till’s murder. The fantastical, twisty what-if of 1950’s Mississippi. It’s a lightning storm in the swamp. It’s electricity and madness and hilarity/horror and the boiled-down heart and soul of love and hate. It’s fiction, but it’s fact, and it’s history, and it’s history and fact and the heart of the matter in the way that takes fiction to get there. Larger than life. Magic even whe ...more
Laura
Feb 13, 2015 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I ended up really really liking this book. However, in the first part of the book I kind of lost focus and got a little bored with characters and story. I'm so glad I snapped out of it because it really was worth the read. Funny and heartbreaking with glimpses of hope.
Randall Luce
Mar 11, 2015 Randall Luce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What do you do when you come from a place that's beautiful, friendly, and magical, and evil to its core?

What do you do when you can't winnow the bad from the good? What do you do when the place that made you is the best and worst place you can imagine?

You write that murdered boys are redemptive mermaids, that love roams without a rhyme or reason, and that all your dreams and hopes profit you nothing against the reality of who you are. You write absurdity into tragedy.

You write about how much yo
...more
Casey
If I were to choose three words to describe Nordan's work, it would be haunting, hilarious, and tragic. Usually such elements are a recipe for disaster, or at the very least a digressive narrative train wreck , but Nordan seamlessly weaves together elements of humor and tragedy, the grotesque and absurd with verdant beauty. Wolf Whistle is a novel whose images will linger with you long after the reading has ended.

Wolf Whistle is based on the 1955 murder of Emmett Till, whose life was taken becau
...more
Grace
Wow. This is truly one of the most amazing books I have ever read in my life. The combination of magical realism, history, and (yes, eventually) some humor reminded me of City of Thieves, if it could remind me of anything. And of course the trial scene briefly brings to mind To Kill a Mockingbird, only because it is a racially-based crime in the South. But this book is absolutely one-of-a-kind.

First of all, the writing is just out of this world. The images are gorgeous and magical and very evoca
...more
Rita Reinhardt
Feb 03, 2012 Rita Reinhardt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes, I am reminded of my own unawareness. Guess what? I am not the only person in the world...no literally; sometimes I have to be reminded about the world not revolving around me. Did you know that other people actually live here, with me? Breathing the same air. Making the same assumptions. Living the same life. On Earth. With me. And they have an opinion about the horrid events that take place, and sometimes...on rare occasions...their opinions may or may not influence my empathy levels ...more
Jeri Massi
Whew! What a book! I've never read anything like this before. Loosely based on the lynching of 14 year old Emmet Till in 1955 (for whistling at a white woman), Nordan's novel is as far away from a crime novel as you can get. A grim and bizarre comedy of callous, drunk, and stupid people, the telling of this tale took me to new destinations in odd but often hilarious ways of telling a story. From the fourth grade teacher who takes her students on a field trip to a mortuary to watch an embalming, ...more
Mary
Dec 17, 2013 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great book. Raw truth about the disparities between class and race in the American South. On the surface, Nordan brings out the historical racial segregation and injustice towards blacks many readers are aware of. Yet, this book also deals with the injustice towards poor whites, or the "white trash." In a small town in Mississippi, society is so suppressed and oppressed in such a segregated stated altogether, that it is hard to notice how disadvantaged many groups in the USA, including whites, ...more
Larry Bassett
This book is not for me!

I have just today found a book that I don't want to put down. It is not this one! Many people have enjoyed reading this book even to the extent of giving it five stars. But this book is not for me. I am going to try to stop reading books where I think "maybe it will be better in the next chapter"! There are too many books on my shelf to be spending time with ones that aren't grabbing me in some way! Why should I feel bad that I don't like this book? I just don't get it. A
...more
Stephen
Really glad to have been made aware of what happened to Emmett Till which I'd never heard about before. However, found this fictionalised account of it pretty frustrating as it diverged quite a lot from what actually happened and Emmett Till was a very periphery character rather than the focus of the book which was more about the effect that the murder had on the local community. Keen to read a more factual non-fiction book on this subject though.
Kenneth
Mar 29, 2014 Kenneth rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Wanted to like it but it was hard going.

The caricature and satire is obvious and, given the positive reception this book has garnered, most people must feel it works really well. It didn't for me; it was mostly wearisome. The dashes of magical realism were no more successful.
Jas
Aug 16, 2014 Jas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You must read this book, just as you must read Jujitsu for Christ.

I hardly knew Buddy Nordan when we shared a college, but I feel honored to have met him, as I do to know Jack Butler, another Mis-sippi writer, better. It is uncanny how Nordan manages to draw humor out of horror (and vice-versa) and pity for atrocious characters. I'm sure he does the humor for the same reason Butler has told me parts of his novel are humorous: in order to defeat these monstrous things, we have to be able to laug
...more
Phaedra
Jul 12, 2009 Phaedra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ostensibly about Emmitt Till, this book rather explores the effects of race on a segregated southern town. At its heart lies the fictionalized murder of Till, but while that pivotal event is the central theme, it's not really what the book is about at all.

Initially I was distracted by the style of writing: to me, so much modern fiction is self-conscious. "Look at me, I'm a creative writer; see how creative I am?" But somehow, Nordan pulls it off, and indeed, pulled me into his half-fantasy worl
...more
U. Teresa
Dec 21, 2013 U. Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was supposed to read this book in graduate school, but I could not bring myself to read a comic book on the death of Emmett Till. I'm glad my friend convinced me finally to read the book because it not only help me rethink/reimagine the community in which Till was killed, but it also help me understand that white people, even "white-trash" had a visceral, emotional response to Till's murder. The comic elements are just southerners being the southerners Nordan encountered; Coach and Runt's fina ...more
Cassie
Oct 09, 2012 Cassie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is based off of a true event, but I didn't know that when I started reading it. (Go ahead and think I'm an idiot if you must, because I sure felt idiotic once I realized my mistake.)

The writing style and tone of the book were quite unique. It was both strange and engaging. It told the story of a horrific murder of a black boy in the south and his murders who were set free, but the tone of the book is neither gruesome nor sentimental.
Jonathan Hiskes
Nov 08, 2012 Jonathan Hiskes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fictional retelling of the Emmett Till murder from the perspectives of several townsfolk. Nordan's swamp-drenched prose is sensuous, making every page a pleasure to read. His careful rendering of the Mississippi Delta reminded me of Brian Doyle's Oregon Coast in Mink River. Mostly in the scent and texture and music of the place.
Emily
Apr 21, 2010 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Isaac; other Southern gothic fans
Recommended to Emily by: Professor Sunny Stalter
"They spoke, finally, from their hearts. Maybe, finally, they did weep together, and maybe held each other tight. Nobody but Bobo knows for sure what happened next, but maybe, behind Alice and Sally Anne, the crystal ball in Swami Don's Elegant Junk shone with the bright blue light of empty interiors and of faraway and friendly stars and all their hopeful planets and golden moons."
Jackson Burnett
Why write a review when someone else has written what you'd say? Jamie provides a perfect review of this book. http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...
Brian Carr
May 08, 2016 Brian Carr rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
the best thing i've read in forever.
twrctdrv
Probably the most guilt ridden satire I've ever read. It's a wonderful book, but it really feels like the authors own guilt takes over a bit too much in the second half. I heard that it original drafts Bobo talked back to Solon during the murder scenes in the same horrific comic voice, but Nordan worried he had gone too far with this scene, too far in depicting the violent truth, and I think that more than anything explains the problem with the book
Marylu VO
Mar 15, 2016 Marylu VO rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great book. Raw truth about the disparities between class and race in the American South. On the surface, Nordan brings out the historical racial segregation and injustice towards blacks many readers are aware of. Yet, this book also deals with the injustice towards poor whites, or the "white trash." In a small town in Mississippi, society is so suppressed and oppressed in such a segregated stated altogether, that it is hard to notice how disadvantaged many groups in the USA, including whites, ...more
Travis Mulhauser
If I had to pick one novel, it's this one...Taught it every semester for 12 years and loved it every time. More than loved it. Religious fervor is probably more accurate. My absolute favorite ending of all time--I think it's actually in the middle of the book--and every line is music.

The parrot, Roy Dale and his Arrows, Solon Gregg. Runt, Alice, Bobo. Uncle and Auntee. Old Coach, drinking out of his canteen. Sweet and Sugar. Swami Don's Elegant Junk. Blue John. Poor little Glenn. The Rider and
...more
Cheryl
Jun 25, 2014 Cheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If there were half points here I would give this book 4 1/2 stars. Lewis Nordan`s writing has been compared to a few different author`s but this is my review so here goes...Take one part Confederacy of Dunces, one part To Kill a Mockingbird & add a touch of Coen brothers & mash them up. You will then have Wolf Whistle which is at the same time hilarious & heartbreaking. It is a fictional account of an actual event that happened in Mississippi in the 50`s. A boy named Emmett Till was ...more
Pamela
Jun 18, 2014 Pamela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wasn't all that keen on starting this book, but since the Kindle version was only $1.99, I figured why not.

About halfway through, I really, and I mean REALLY wanted to stop reading. I knew what was going to happen, and I didn't want to read about it. But since I had already gotten this far, I hated to give up on it even more than I hated the idea of continuing. Cringing at what was coming, I forged ahead.

"It" happened--but not in the way or with the words I was expecting. The book changed. It
...more
Jaclyn
Nov 23, 2011 Jaclyn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I made it a little past half way, and I just couldn't do it anymore. I love civil rights-era books, but this author seemed so caught up in the writing and being clever that the story became secondary. I found myself getting lost and becoming very confused about who was white and who was black. And when the book is about a southern state in the '60s, this is kind of important. Maybe it was supposed to be hard to follow? Maybe it was author commentary that, as MJ said, it don't matter if you're bl ...more
Erika
Apr 03, 2014 Erika rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A black boy dared to wolf whistle at a white lady. He got murdered for it, and his murderers got acquitted even though everyone knew they did it. This was a turning point for every single person in their town.

The pure beauty in this sad book was heartbreaking. The lyrical writing juxtaposed with depressing subject matter was a blues song in a book. Then after all of that, it was funny. I haven't read a book that engaged me emotionally like this in a very long time.
Mississippi Library Commission
Lewis Nordan's Wolf Whistle tells the story of Emmett Till, but in classic Nordan style: tragic, beautiful, and hilarious. We think this book should be on everyone's to-read list.
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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lewis Nordan (August 23, 1939 – April 13, 2012) was an American writer.
Nordan was born to Lemuel and Sara Bayles in Forest, Mississippi, grew up in Itta Bena, Mississippi. He received his B.A. at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, his M.A. from Mississippi State University, and his Ph.D. from Auburn University in Alabama. In 1983, at age forty-five, Nord
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“The Mississippi Delta is not always dark with rain. Some autumn mornings, the sun rises over Moon Lake, or Eagle, or Choctaw, or Blue, or Roebuck, all the wide, deep waters of the state, and when it does, its dawn is as rosy with promise and hope as any other.” 5 likes
“The day Glenn Gregg's daddy got back from New Orleans was the same day Lady Sally Anne Montberclair decided to park her big white Cadillac out in front of Red's Goodlookin Bar and Gro. and leave the motor running and scoot inside, out of the first drops of rain, on an errand. Glenn's daddy was named Solon.” 2 likes
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