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Alligator Bayou

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  434 Ratings  ·  115 Reviews
Talullah, Louisiana. 1899.

Calogero, his uncles, and cousins are six Sicilian men living in the small town of Tallulah, Louisiana. They work hard, growing vegetables and selling them at their stand and in their grocery store.

To 14-year-old Calogero, newly arrived from Sicily, Tallulah is a lush world full of contradictions, hidden rules, and tension between the Negro and wh
ebook, 288 pages
Published May 11th 2010 by Wendy Lamb Books (first published March 10th 2009)
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Feb 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, ya
This is a beautifully written story, with a heartbreaking finale that sneaks up on you like a gator in dark water. You might see it's yellow eye, or the swirl of water, but by the time you realize what's coming--it's got you.

I started reading Alligator Bayou on a whim, because it had a good title, a lovely cover, and I'm a sucker for Southern fiction. I was immediately impressed with Napoli's lean yet evocative style. Her characters were flesh and blood in my mind with just a few quick sentence
Jan 19, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those with a thick emotional skin
Holy darkness, Batman. Dark setting, dark plot, dark skin color.

There is something so perfect about the way Napoli has blended the dark, mysterious swamp with the intolerance of the white characters for the Black and Italian characters. There is a dark undercurrent running through the very fiber of this book. It may or may not have been made with natural swamp grass and recycled racial profiling flyers.

It was an uncomfortable read, but well worth the time.

As for the ending, well, there was very
May 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I always understood intellectually that immigrants had been discriminated against, I did not realize two of the underlying reasons. First, some nationalities (such as the Italians in this book) were viewed as a separate race. Not white, not black. Different. Second, the fear of immigrants' success was an economic reason to discriminate against them. Donna Jo Napoli does an amazing job of bringing turn-of-the-century (1899) Louisiana to life.
Katie Young
Apr 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mallori Allphin

This is a fantastic story that presents the searing truths and hardships of immigration in the South during the time of Jim Crowe Laws. It is an unforgettable story about a 14 year old Sicilian immigrant boy named Calogero, who lives in Tallulah with his uncles and cousin. Each day provides a new struggle for these foreigners are they desperately try to feel accepted and escape hatred from their community while running a grocery fruit stand. While some are accepting of him and his family, others
Dec 27, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The book had an interesting idea/topic for a book yet the author's writing was non-descript and unappealing.
Margo Tanenbaum
One of the reasons I enjoy historical fiction is that it offers the opportunity to learn about little known episodes in our country's history, wrapped in the context of a compelling story. In writing Alligator Bayou, Donna Jo Napoli was inspired by a newspaper account about five Sicilian grocers in a small town in Louisiana who served a black customer who had entered the store first before a white one--and ended up lynched by a town mob. Many of the characters in the novel are based on the actua ...more
Jan 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
ISBN / 9780553494174
The storyline of this book is extremely fast paced, beginning with Calo and his cousin running in the night through a field only to be faced by a panther. The story is told from the point of view of Calo, a 14 year-old who has come from Sicily after his mother’s death to live with his uncles in Tallulah, Louisiana, in 1899. These Sicilian uncles live together. They own and operate a vegetable store in the center of town and a vegetable stand on the outskirts of town. The town
Cindy Hudson
Jan 06, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Calogero is a 14-year-old immigrant to Louisiana from Sicily, and he lives in the small town of Tallulah where his cousins and uncles sell groceries and produce. The year is 1899, and the small band of Sicilians find the constraints that won’t let them mingle with whites because their skin is dark also keeps them from socializing with blacks.

Calogero and his 13-year-old cousin Cirone are lonely and want to fit in: they work to learn English, eat American food and try to learn the customs of thei

Alligator Bayou takes place in Tallulah, Louisiana. 1899. Calogero – fourteen, recently emigrated from Sicily, Italy. He lives with five other Sicilian men who took him in when his mother died. He works for them selling fruits and vegetables at their stand and grocery store. He has many of the same concerns any other fourteen year old would have. He has strong feeling for Patricia, an intelligent African-American girl and to befriend her brother Charles. Jim Crow laws stated that Sicilian people
Judy Jones
Although I thought some of the language was a little forced and less than realistic, Napoli relates a good, albeit painful, story of prejudice against Italians in turn of the century (early 1900s) southern Louisiana. Francesco and his brothers have moved from New Orleans to Tallulah after the lynching of eleven Sicilians there. They have been established in Tallulah for several years and are known for their fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the area. While their fame for good produce brings ...more
Carrie G
Oct 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"This is a story that hurts. But pain isn't always bad. Pain can help us gain empathy that compels us to act decently. We can't afford to be ignorant about bigotry. Not in our history. Not in our present day." These are the words that Donna Jo Napoli ends her Afterword section with. I can't think of a more true or fitting ending to this heart-wrenching book.

"Alligator Bayou" is based on a true story of racism and bigotry in Tallulah, LA in the 1890's. It is the true part of the story (which see
Joy E. Rancatore
Moments ago I laid down Alligator Bayou by Donna Jo Napoli, and I'm still a bit at a loss for words.

The book itself was well-written, engaging--a real page-turner. It was a quick and easy read and should be on any english teacher's list for high school students, especially in Louisiana or anywhere with a Sicilian immigrant presence in the area's history.

Napoli obviously spent much time in researching this book--from the language of the day to the cultural and economic details of Louisiana in the
Mar 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I give this book a four star's , the book shows enough support of family 'which is huge thing for us . The main subject of the story is that it demonstrates enough details of neighborhood relationships such as companies , stores, and barbers which determine a good way of being happy, which it shows action.

The book express ways of family that are connecting to their past'such as the members who have fallen in steps of leaving them, the book is great for those who are involved in mystery, crime,
Max Willi
Jan 31, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ages 12 and up
"Alligator Bayou" is based upon historical events. In 1899 a small group of Sicilian immigrants negotiate the segregated society of a small northeastern Louisiana river community.

The first half of the book is very slow; it seems like the author is "beating around the bush" in addressing the conflict. I kept asking myself, "Ok, I get the idea of the societal friction between various races/ethnicities, but what else is going on here?" Napoli delivers the missing ingredient to the overall conflict
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by LadyJay for

It is the year 1899. Calogero, a 14-year-old Sicilian immigrant, lives in Tallulah, Louisiana, with his uncles and cousins.

They have all come to America seeking a better life. They do well for themselves, selling fruits and vegetables from a corner grocery store. They do not seek out trouble, but it always has a way of finding them.

Calo and his family do not discriminate between blacks and whites. They sell to anyone who will buy their produce. Members of
Drew Nevitt
Jul 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult-lit
I must admit, knowing the credentials this author has, I was expecting something more moving, thought provoking, or controversial. Sadly, it was not what I was expecting, but thankfully, it was a good social issues book for readers even as young as tween. It was not too complex to be over their heads. And it's an underdiscussed portion of history, that even this history minior didn't know about. I enjoyed how she wrote a story based on a newspaper clipping, and researched the real persons in the ...more
Michaela George
Calogero who is a 14 year old boy from Sicily, he is the main character of Alligator Bayou. This book takes place in a little town in Tallulah, Louisiana. He and his uncles and cousins are immigrants and have to live during the time of the Jim Crowe Laws. Him and his family are not treated as equals and they are caught in a hard place because they can’t be friends with the Negroes, but they are not equal to white people. This is almost a harder position than the black people have, because they h ...more
Dec 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alligator Bayou is a gripping novel based on a little-known, true story of Sicilian immigrants in rural 1899 Louisiana. Fourteen year-old Calogero lives and works with his uncles and cousin, raising fruits and vegetables for their successful grocery business. He tells of sunrise in bayou country, the bounty of nature, sumptuous meals, and the joys and frustrations of family, friendships, and first love. These first-person present tense descriptions are immediate and compelling. The story also ha ...more
I'm a fan of Donna Jo Napoli and couldn't wait to read this story. The library edition I checked out had no blurb, and the mystery heightened my anticipation. Sadly, I was disappointed this time.

Her trademark lyrical writing style was conspicuously absent and made me wish she had written in third person instead of first. I'll take her style over a believably-voiced third-person narrator any day. While I believed the narrator's voice, I didn't quite believe his naivete. Children from racial group
Carol Baldwin
May 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Alligator Bayou tells the story of orphaned Calo who emigrates from Sicily in 1899 to Louisiana. He is taken in by five men and one boy, Cirone, all of whom were friends of his father. The story came from a newspaper article which Napoli found detailing how five Sicilian grocers were lynched when they served a black customer before a white one. From that tiny piece of information flows a book that is beautifully written, despite its shocking story.

This is a story of bigotry, jealousy, love, hat
I did not particularly enjoy this novel. I did not particularly enjoy reading Bound, one of her other novels, either. I didn’t like this one because I didn’t relate well with the characters. I typically gravitate towards books with a female protagonist; this book was narrated by a male protagonist. She seemed to do a good job representing the time period and the struggles immigrants and African Americans faced. She brought the world to life through vivid details and customs and lifestyles.

I wou
Jun 25, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Historical fiction (1899), bigotry, racism, immigration, jim crow laws, young love, friendship, family, lynching.

Based on a true story--6 Italian immigrants grow vegetables in a Louisiana town where they treat Negro people the same as white people and of course the white people are outraged by this behavior. The first 1/2 of the book was very slow. I just couldn't get into it but after the alligator scene I was hooked. Calogero and his cousin go with some Negro friends on a alligator hunt in the
Danielle Larca
Calogero lives with his uncles and cousin outside of Tallulah, Louisiana in 1899. Their family runs a grocery store, selling the best fruits and vegetables to members of the town. They are the only Sicilians in Tallulah and therefore a target. Not everyone takes kindly to the immigrants, who aren't white but aren't Negro either. Calogero doesn't fit in anywhere. Until he meets Patricia and her brother. Who happen to be black.

For the first time ever, the Scalise family has friends. But fraternizi
Nov 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Middle and high school
A Louisiana story set just after the civil war. The Americans have settled in Louisiana, they are asserting their ownership of the former French colony and their position in the society and economics of the area. Times are grim in Italy for Cologaro's family and he crosses the ocean to join fellow Sicilians in a small town north of New Orleans. Industrious, savvy, ambitious and knowledgeable his little 'family' has a farm, a fruit stand and a store that are profitable and thriving. What they don ...more
May 05, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
What I really liked about this novel was the multicultural layer to the text. It really gave the relationships between the characters an extra intriguing layer. I had not learned about Sicilian prejudice in the South so this novel opened that area up for me. I thought the "love" between Calogero and Patricia was adorable and sweet!

That being said, the plot rarely captivated me. The only time I got really caught up in the plot was the last 20 pages or so, where I found myself furiously turning th
What I really liked about this novel was the multicultural layer to the text. It really gave the relationships between the characters an extra intriguing layer. I had not learned about Sicilian prejudice in the South so this novel opened that area up for me. I thought the "love" between Calogero and Patricia was adorable and sweet!

That being said, the plot rarely captivated me. The only time I got really caught up in the plot was the last 20 pages or so, where I found myself furiously turning th
Age of Readership:

12 years and up


historical fiction


cultural; race relations at the turn of the century (1899)

Personal response:

It was an enjoyable story, and quite enlightening. Many people do not think about the other minority cultures in this time period, as the majority of history covers the race relations between blacks and whites. I thought some of the narrative was unnecessarily visceral. I didn't need to know the details of what happened to the dog when it got caught by th
Jul 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel of historical fiction tells a familiar tale, but the characters are changed. It is a beautiful and heartbreaking story of prejudice set in the south - near New Orleans. Instead of blacks being treated horribly by southern whites, this story is of the Sicilians who came to this country around the 1890's to start produce businesses. They were very successful, but threatened the already existing businesses of the whites. The Sicilians are a classless people as they do not mix with the wh ...more
Cate Mueller
Calogero, is a young 14 year old who is an immigrant from Sicily, Italy. Calogero came all the way to Tallulah, Louisiana where he would live with his uncles and cousins after his mother’s death. In a town like Tallulah there was a wide ranges of like and dislike towards their family grocery store. The challenges faced from trying to be socially equal are seen as Calogero faces many acts of hatred. Alligator Bayou tells the story of the hardships of immigration and people of color in the south a ...more
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From her website:

Donna Jo Napoli is both a linguist and a writer of children's and YA fiction.

Donna Jo has five children. She dreams of moving to the woods and becoming a naturalist. She loves to garden and bake bread.

At various times her house and yard have been filled with dogs, cats, birds, and rabbits. For thirteen years she had a cat named Taxi, and liked to go outside and call, "Taxi!" to
More about Donna Jo Napoli...
“The world would be a better place if everyone traveled.
~Miss Clarrie”
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