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Magic City

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  218 ratings  ·  35 reviews
Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921. A white woman and a black man are alone in an elevator. Suddenly, the woman screams, the man runs out, and the chase to capture and lynch him begins.

When Joe, a young man trying to be the next Houdini, is accused of rape, he must perform his greatest escape by eluding a bloodthirsty lynch mob. And Mary, the motherless daughter of a farmer who tries t
Paperback, 288 pages
Published June 23rd 1998 by Harper Perennial (first published June 1st 1997)
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Average rating 4.07  · 
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May 31, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
May 31 - June 1, 2021 marked the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre, the 1921 tragedy also known as the Black Wall Street Massacre and (formerly) the Tulsa race riot. After a 19-year-old Black man was accused of assaulting a 17-year-old White female in an elevator, a White mob was deputized and armed, martial law was declared, and an entire Black community was destroyed by aerial and ground attack. Approximately 10,000 people were left homeless, and 39 people were killed.

This is an ev
May 31, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"There's misunderstandings at times. A woman might say no when she means yes. Now isn't that right? You might encourage a man without realizing it."


Do you want to know more about the Tulsa massacre but have a hard time reading history or heavy historical fiction? Well, then I would suggest Magic City to you. In honor of the 100 year anniversary @harperperennial is re-releasing Magic City, a fictionalization of the events that happened to cause the race riot and subsequent
Lynn Lipinski
Jul 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written story that takes many fictional liberties with the events leading up to the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921, one of the worst examples of racial violence in the United States. Parker Rhodes acknowledges as much in her afterword. She creates sweeping and empathetic back stories for the two real world protagonists: the black man and white woman whose interaction in an elevator in downtown Tulsa in May 1921 sparked racial rancor into vengefulness and propelled a mob to put the Negroes ...more
Dec 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
An important and eerily relevant book, 'Magic City' recreates the buildup and immediate aftermath of the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, which saw a mob of whites methodically burn and destroy one of the nation's most affluent black neighborhoods. It was a disgraceful time in this country's history, a bloody crescendo of the post-reconstruction era. One of the key themes of the book is that racial tension can build into a powder keg - all it takes is a spark for the whole thing to go off. Let's hope th ...more
Tracey Cornwell
Sep 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fictional account of "the only U.S. city bombed from the air." An almost eighteen year old black man falsely accused of raping a white female elevator operator is the catalyst that triggers a race riot including the KKK, National Guard and residents of Deep Greenwood, a thriving African American community in 1920s Tulsa, OK. Although not without flaw it vividly captures life and attitudes at that time of both urban and rural living whites, as well as African Americans. A dichotomy within a dicho ...more
Kaytee Cobb
This book is being re-issued, which is how it landed on my radar. I wanted it to be the ownvoices replacement for Dreamland Burning, but it was much darker and had far more sex than that one, so it can't slide quite into that spot. But I did really like it, even though one white character has quite a bit of white saviorism on her shoulders. ...more
Oct 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a story based on true events that happened in the 1920's. It shows how hateful people can be.

Mary is a white woman whose mother died when she was young. She takes care of her father and brother on their farm as well as working as an elevator operator in a business office in town.

Joe is a likeable young black man, soon to turn 18 years old. He comes from a prominent black family in Greenwood, the black community. He prefers to shine shoes instead of going into the banking business with
This is an event in American history I was not familiar with until recent years. This novel, originally published in 1997, has been republished to mark this milestone. The author has written a fictional account of the event with characters loosely based on the real life people at the heart of the crisis. After doing some online reading, I found it interesting that a lot of the facts regarding the massacre are unknown, such as what really happened between a white girl and a black man in an elevat ...more
Jun 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
At first I was disappointed that this was a fictional account of the black shoeshine man and the white elevator woman who sparked off this massacre. This turned into a very satisfying read, showing the struggle of the black population along with showing some very good white people. The book also illustrated how a misunderstanding can quickly turn into a horrendous event. This book is way more fiction than history, but a very true read:
Addie BookCrazyBlogger
May 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc-s
In Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921, Joe Samuels is a banker’s son and shoeshiner by choice, determined to make it as the next Houdini. He’s mourning his older brother Henry who died in the war and having strange, almost prophetic-like dreams. He lives in Greenwood, an all-black, prosperous town in the middle of white Tulsa. Mary Keane is a poor white woman living on a farm in Tulsa with her bitter father and her younger brother who lost a leg in WWI. She works part-time as an elevator operator and when ...more
Morgan Marie
Apr 13, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education
“Recent social justice protests have sparked a new awakening to right historical and contemporary wrongs. George Floyd’s murder on May 25, 2020, was a watershed moment recognizing systemic racism and how since the dawn of slavery, brutality continues to oppress Black lives” (“Author’s Note”).

Thank you @harperperennial for this gifted copy in exchange for an honest review! 📚 💕

The original book was published in 1997, and it has been reissued into this new edition with its publication date on May
Sep 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
The amount of hatred at the time is horrible. Joe, a black shoe shiner, gets in a whites only elevator to comfort the white female operator. To him she looked distraught and he wanted to put a smile on her face. Unbeknownst to him, she had just been raped by her fathers helper. At some point during this elevator ride, she screams and faints. Joe, knowing what this looks like, runs as soon as the elevator door opens. This is the beginning of the end of a whole town of people.

The scream of one whi
Norman Hammon
Sep 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was one of the most engaging of reads! The author quickly and completely immerses the reader in the world and reality of Greenwood, as a town with a city that is early 20th Century Tulsa. While the author took some historic liberties, the feel and essence of the book are moving and introspective. Concluding with the horrific tragedy of the Race Massacre leaves the reader as desolated as the one-time citizens of this prosperous community. In retrospect, one has to imagine if the massacre had ...more
Dec 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
powerful story -- two people divided by race but forever joined by fate; white woman raped and black man accused; the event which all but erased (burned to the ground) Greenwood, Oklahoma (the Black Wall Street of its time) from the map; Tulsa still stands but Greenwood was never the same. The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 still stands as a tragedy of monumental proportions and the history of it has been ignored since the 20's. Sad but true. ...more
Lindsey Sparks
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-and-read
Despite living in Oklahoma all my life I know very little about Black Wall Street and the Tulsa Race Riots. I knew they existed, but beyond that not much. This brought history to life, with the poor white girl and the wealthy black boy who end up in an elevator together and cause a riot. The characters aren't based on the real people, but the outcome is the same in the novel as it was in real life. This wasn't even 100 years ago! This would be a great book to do for a statewide read in 2021. ...more
Jul 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those buried treasures. No one's heard of it, but it's a great read, and it's centered around a historical event no one knows about: the Tulsa, OK race riots in the 1920s. I first read it in college because the author came to Alma, but it's one of my favorite books. I've loaned it to several students, and they've all loved it, too. ...more
Sep 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A fictional spin on the 1921 Tulsa Race Riots. Ms. Rhodes surely can write to ignite the sparks of hatred and fuel them into a fire of emotion. It made me wonder why we never hear about the race riots which killed over 300 people (mostly black). This is a sweeping tale that will not only tug at your heart, but nearly break it in two.
Feb 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I had no intention of reading all night when I picked up this book, but I could not put it down. I also never expected to find the ghost of Harry Houdini speaking within the book, a voice that--along with this story of courage--haunts me still.
Sep 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, engl-7213
What a fantastic fictitious account of one of the ugliest chapters of Tulsa history. Parker Rhodes has a Toni Morrison style with her magical realism. I recommend this book to those who enjoy historical fiction or would like a or some perspective on the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921.
Cheri Cromartie
Dec 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't put the book down! My emotions were all over the place! ...more
Karin Kwekkeboom
Apr 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Character development in this book was SO good. I read it in 3 days while working out on my treadmill. Good book for getting a feel for the Tulsa Race Massacre.
Mrs. VanHorn
Jun 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Tulsa riots recreated with such emotional realism I couldn’t put it down. Thank you Jewell Parker Rhodes for writing this book!
Jun 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I don’t know how to review this book in a way that does it justice. And yes, that word is deliberately chosen. Justice. This book is about Tulsa, specifically Tulsa in 1921 and the riots and massacre that ensued. It brings to life in the most vivid way people who could have lived within the community of Greenwood. Loved and loved and laughed and fought. And it goes into the heartbreaking story of Joe and Mary, which is the spark Tulsa uses to burn the world to the ground. We should all read this ...more
Carol Whetzel
Aug 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good story...liked Dreamland Burning better.
Christina Marie Reads
May 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
I read this beautifully written fictionalized account of the Tulsa Massacre in one sitting over the weekend. It was truly one of the most heartbreaking books I've ever read. ...more
Jessica (readitandquip) H
How have I just found out about the 1921 Tulsa Massacre/Black Wall Street?
Jun 05, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"All stories deserve to be told." Page 366. Author's note. ...more
Jun 16, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021
This is a fictionalized telling of a real tragedy. While I have no doubt that there were real heroes and villains, I doubt that this book has identified them. Mary? maybe. Clay? I really doubt it.
Apr 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
Jewell Parker Rhodes is the speaker this week at the Jackson District Library Word Wise Celebration. In preparation for her visit, I decided to read one of her books and chose "Magic City". Historical fiction isn't a genre I usually select but this book moved me.

The author took a terrible episode out of African American experience in this country and turned it into a story about people you came to care about. You'll wonder why you never heard about the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921 before but you'll
Victoria Law
Add to my list of Things I Never Learned in History Class: The Tulsa riots of 1921, the existence and destruction of Greenwood (the "Black Wall Street"). According to Rhodes' afterward,for over a year, the Black citizens of Greenwood were forced to live in internment camps and carry green cards (although I wasn't able to confirm this last bit after a quick search on-line, but perhaps a more savvy searcher or history buff can confirm/deny this?) ...more
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Jewell Parker Rhodes has always loved reading and writing stories. Born and raised in Manchester, a largely African-American neighborhood on the North Side of Pittsburgh, she was a voracious reader as a child. She began college as a dance major, but when she discovered there were novels by African Americans, she knew she wanted to be an author. She wrote six novels for adults, two writing guides, ...more

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