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3.90  ·  Rating details ·  589 ratings  ·  91 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 fast as anyone can say Jim Crow, 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 ...more
Published January 1st 2015 by Picador (first published 2008)
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Average rating 3.90  · 
Rating details
 ·  589 ratings  ·  91 reviews

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Oct 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-away
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
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic and thoughtful novel, which was the perfect choice for a book club discussion.
Aug 02, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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,
Feb 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
-Langston Hughes

This novel is a fictionalized look at one of the most horrific triumphs of injustice in the 20th century. Feldman clearly did her research. In Scottsboro she paints a vivid portrait of Alabama in the Thirties, warm, hospitable - and deeply sinister. The book is fascinating and sickening. With a careful hand and brilliant prose, Feldman brings something fresh to a well-documented event. Her fictional characters are mu
Roger Mckenzie
Feb 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is an excellent weaving together of fiction and non-fiction to tell a truly tragic tale of direct and institutional racism. In this case we see the ingrained racism that pervaded the South of the U.S. that would become more familiar to more of us during the Civil Rights Movement.

It's also a reminder of the ancestoral roots of the acts of State violence currently being waged against the Black community in the U.S.

A really good read that should remind anyone who needs reminding that fightin
Feb 24, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Library book I picked up on Tuesday. Gosh this book made me think. On more than one occasion I gasped and thought 'how can they do/think that'. One hell of a reminder!
Sep 21, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
The first 3/4 of this was excellent ! However the last 1/4 was so boring.......... very disappointed.
Sep 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
This is a thoughtful, well-written book, which is mostly very engaging. However, over time the author's fictional character intrudes too much with personal elements that don't give insight into the real case as much as they could (or rather, as much as I think the author believes they do). Overall, too, though the fictional narrator comments on the way in which the Scottsboro defendants fell into the background of their own story, the book doesn't so much critique this fact as replicate it. Howe ...more
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In 1931, near the town of Scottsboro Alabama, a posse of white men seized a vagrant group of African American boys from a goods train. Accused of raping two white girls they were speedily tried, convicted and condemned to die in the electric chair. There the matter would have ended (as it often did in those times) except their case was taken up by a group of activists. Ellen Feldman re-imagines this tragic episode in US history, providing a dramatic depiction of virulent racism, sexual exploitat ...more
Dec 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A novel based upon true events in what can only be described as one of the saddest and more disgraceful periods of American history. The author carefully presents historical facts through a fictional narrator. I think this worked well and made the story easy to read. I was never unclear as to what was fact or fiction. I wasn't familiar with the historical story prior to reading this book and I found it gripping and compelling. How glad I am that I am living now and not in the 1930s.
Nick Hills
A feel of “to kill a mockingbird “given the characters & Court case.
Jerry Smith
Jul 11, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
I'm hit and miss on historical fiction.
This was ok and if I weren't a history dork based out of Alabama I would likely have enjoyed it a bit more.
Wisteria Leigh
Jul 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 t ...more
Feb 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
B.A.B.A.E.L. Scottsboro is really historical novel writing at its finest. I was completely absorbed in this skillful blend of fact and fiction, becoming engrossed in the story and learning a lot too. What more could you ask for? That the author, Ellen Feldman, take on sexism, elitism, communism, racism, antisemitism, sexuality and more in one book? And pull it off? Well she does and she does. The author notes in an afterword that when she told people she was writing about Scottsboro, this news was often gre ...more
Nov 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 Ne
Oct 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alabama 1931; just outside the small town of Scottsboro a freight train is stopped by a posse of white men. Aboard are a motley crew of young white hobos, nine black youths and two white girls. It isn't long before the two girls, Victoria Price and Ruby Bates cry rape. Despite the black youths being innocent of any crime they are arrested; Victoria sticks to her story, but Ruby changes hers, not once, but several times.All the while the nine black youths are incarcerated, enduring horrendous con ...more
Dec 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like most historical fiction I read, Scottsboro served its purpose well. In the span of a 359-page novel, it played out the story of "The Scottsboro Boys" (history I've long been familiar with...but not altogether clear on). The book was well-researched and very well-written from the fictional viewpoints of a female journalist—which puts another interesting twist on the story—and Ruby Bates, one of the two women reportedly raped.

The first thing I do when I finish a book like this, is immerse my
Apr 08, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fictionalised/ dramatised version of a true story- the Scottsboro boys-.
I thought it was an amazing novel, written as it was from two viewpoints- that od Ruby Bates and a New York journalist who takes an interest in the case.
One cannot even begin to imagine what life must have been like for black people in 1930's Alabama, but this book very nearly succeeds. The hatred, the claustrophobic atmoshere, is all realised in this deeply affecting book. How can you feel condemnation for the
Aug 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 just
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
John Grinstead
Jul 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Postal book pic. Now that our round of reading is finished, I can add this novel. It's a great read about an event I knew nothing about. Nada. And then I went to London and saw posters for a musical. A MUSICAL? About 9 boys who were unjustly accused of rape in 1930s Alabama? I have no idea how that will play; I'm intrigued though. But as far as the book version goes, this is excellent. My notes are lost, but I do remember that the story is from two points of view: One of the girls who accused th ...more
Apr 05, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a novel based on the notorious Scottsboro legal case where nine black defendants travelling on a train in Depression-era America were accused of raping two white women. In fact there had been a fight on the train in which the black youths had been the victors and the white youths thrown from the train had stirred up local white citizens to "set matters straight". Ellen Feldman has a female journalist as a main character, but also gives us the voice of one of the women who made the rape a ...more
Catherine Siemann
Jul 30, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  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
This is the second book I've read by this author, and while I liked it better than "Terrible Virtue", I still didn't love it. The story of The Scotsboro Boys is told in what I found to be a rather disjointed style, narrated from several points of view, so much so, that I couldn't get a very intimate take on the narrator, Alice. Which is too bad, because she is by far the most interesting and likable of the female characters in this book. I was impressed with the telling of the story however, and ...more
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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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