On the Southern Literary Trail discussion

Strange Fruit
This topic is about Strange Fruit
49 views
Group Reads: Moderator's Choice > Strange Fruit_March 2016

Comments Showing 1-48 of 48 (48 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Here's the place for open discussion of Strange Fruit by Lillian E. Smith. This novel was chosen by Moderator Laura, "The Tall Woman," as her pick for the March, 2016, Moderator's Choice. The novel has previously been nominated for a group read, but didn't make the cut during the voting on the poll. We think this significant work is worthy of a read. Join in and tell us what you think.


message 2: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane Barnes | 3864 comments Mod
So glad to see this thread finally up. I am reading it now, and can't believe I've never heard of this book or this author. It's a powerful story about race relations in a small town in Georgia just after WWI. It was a brave thing to write and to publish in 1944. If you can find a copy of this book, I urge you to read it. I got mine from our library.


message 3: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Laura | 1926 comments Mod
Diane I was pleased our library had a copy too. Anxious to pick this one up.


message 4: by Jane (last edited Feb 28, 2016 09:42PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jane | 738 comments Diane wrote: "So glad to see this thread finally up. I am reading it now, and can't believe I've never heard of this book or this author. It's a powerful story about race relations in a small town in Georgia jus..."
Same here, I cannot believe I have not read this before now.

I started this book and finished it this weekend it was so good and impossible to put down, The brilliance is in the descriptions of the different characters relationships.


Carmen Slaughter | 15 comments I've read it but will be following this discussion. One of the best, lesser known novels to come out of the South. Lillian Smith was way ahead of her time.


Jane | 738 comments Carmen wrote: "I've read it but will be following this discussion. One of the best, lesser known novels to come out of the South. Lillian Smith was way ahead of her time."Yes, true ahead of her time and I feel thiso novel echoes through later work by other novelists not just as far as the interracial theme goes either.


message 7: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane Barnes | 3864 comments Mod
It seems to be a realistic portrayal of the times. It is so amazing to me at how the whites didn't seem to think that black people had any feelings whatsoever. Tracey only thought he loved Nonnie because she listened to him whine about his mother (in addition to the sex). But the fact he got her pregnant never even registered to him as far as it might concern her. I found him to be an atrocious character.


message 8: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Laura | 1926 comments Mod
I had never heard of the author before until Author, Silas House mentioned her on Facebook. I looked her up and this work, like you all have said, seemed ahead of the times. I'm glad you all are liking it.


Jane | 738 comments Laura wrote: "I had never heard of the author before until Author, Silas House mentioned her on Facebook. I looked her up and this work, like you all have said, seemed ahead of the times. I'm glad you all are li..."
It was a really good choice Laura .Thank you .


message 10: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane Barnes | 3864 comments Mod
Yes, great choice, Laura. I have some errands to do today, but they may get put off til I finish this book.


message 11: by John (new) - rated it 3 stars

John | 533 comments Laura, I have a copy on hold from the library. I'll catch up


message 12: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Laura | 1926 comments Mod
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1jle...

Here are the lyrics and song to Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday for which the title was taken.


message 13: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Laura wrote: "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1jle...

Here are the lyrics and song to Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday for which the title was taken."


The origin of the title is what had me riveted when the novel was originally nominated as an earlier group read. My copy from Amazon should arrive Thursday. Can't wait!


Martha (marthag503) I'm really excited about this choice. I bought a copy of this book after reading about it in When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II. At the time, it was one of the most requested books and one of the books that people most tried to censor. I was going to wait until this summer to read Strange Fruit, but think I'll move it up a notch now that it is going to be a moderator's choice.


message 15: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Laura | 1926 comments Mod
Thanks Martha. That book looks amazing. My library has it on ebook and audio. How do you think the audio version would be? Did you do a review on the book?


message 16: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Laura | 1926 comments Mod
Found it, Martha. 4 stars, yay!!!!


Martha (marthag503) In reality I should have given When Books Went to War 5 stars. I still think about it. I'm not an audio book lover, so I don't know how it would be on audio. My father listened to it and really liked the book.


message 18: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Laura | 1926 comments Mod
My library has both so I will see which I can get to first. I spend so much time in my car waiting on my kiddo that I found the audio is a good option. This allows me to have no wasted time not reading!!!


message 19: by Suzy (new)

Suzy (goodreadscomsuzy_hillard) | 211 comments Hi all - i wasn't planning to read this, but the enthusiasm from the group has swayed me. And it's just March 1st! :)

This is available from my library and since it's on the shorter side, I'll order it so I can join in on the conversation.


message 20: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
A remarkable read of race relations in 1920s Georgia. Tracy Deen, son of a white doctor, is in love with Nonnie, a black girl so fair completed you could think she, too was white. Their love is not only censured by the conventions of both black and white communities, miscegenation laws make their love illegal. Smith writes from multiple points of view, black, white, and the lovers, as well. Stunning.

As a supplemental read, I have bought Killers of the Dream, considered Smith's most influential book. Written in 1949, Smith wrote, "I began to see racism and its rituals of segregation as a symptom of grave illness...When people think more of their skin color than their souls, something has happened to them."

"Killers of the Dream" was seen as a catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement. Smith died in 1966. Those enjoying "Strange Fruit" would find Smith's memoir equally interesting as tthe novel we are reading.


message 21: by John (new) - rated it 3 stars

John | 533 comments I started it last night


message 22: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Laura | 1926 comments Mod
Tracy is infuriating. This thought from him makes my blood boil, pg 97, "A colored girl blocking a white path". How ironic!


message 23: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane Barnes | 3864 comments Mod
I thought Tracy was an awful human being. He thought of no one but himself. He wasn't in love with anyone but himself. Spare me the Tracys of the world.


message 24: by Jane (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jane | 738 comments And I would add their mothers !


message 25: by Martha (last edited Mar 11, 2016 03:05PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Martha (marthag503) I'm almost done and just came up for breath long enough to say I'm almost finished. While Tracy is not likeable, I think he is a tragic consequence of being a child who was raised by a house servant, grew up with her son, and basically was more comfortable with the black community. Then he learns about race discrimination in a violent way and this sets the course for the conflicting feelings and behavior he displays toward Nonnie, his family and community. Most of what we read about Tracy is his stream of consciousness thoughts about himself. His thoughts about himself are full of self-sabotage and guilt and I think this plays a part in why we don't like him. I liked him briefly when his sister Laura was thinking about her brief late night talk with Tracy when he came back from seeing Nonnie, when she described how she could see how appealing Tracy was to other people. Mostly I feel sorry for him.


message 26: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane Barnes | 3864 comments Mod
I find it difficult to feel sorry for Tracy, even with his awful mother and difficult upbringing. He had been to the war, had gotten away, then came back. But he never had any empathy for anyone else, and related everything to himself. He flunked out of college, but Nonnie actually graduated, she was smarter than he was, but buried that because of her blind love for him. I know the times were different, but he didn't even have enough character to see her as a human being. My sympathies actually lay more with the sister. I thought the hint of a homosexual relationship between her and the other woman was a pretty brave thing to tackle by this author.


Martha (marthag503) Yes, I agree Laura was a more sympathetic character. Still, I can see the societal forces that shaped Tracy. Note that his warmest feelings for Nonnie came out in the battlefields far away from home or when in her presence. Whenever he was away from her or whenever he was reminded of her race, he became repelled and reduced her to a subhuman. I didn't like this about him, but I can see what a lost soul he was.

I am interested in reading Killers of the Dream. I live in the Pacific Northwest and Southern literature is not that easy to find in libraries. I'll have to go to Powells in Portland to get it, I'm sure. I think Laura had a bit of Lillian Smith in her.


Martha (marthag503) I thought this Wikipedia article about Lillian Smith was interesting. I hadn't heard of the Lillian Smith Book Award before. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lillian...


message 29: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane Barnes | 3864 comments Mod
Martha, an interesting comment that Lillian Smith had a lot of Laura in her. I think you're right.


message 30: by Martha (last edited Mar 11, 2016 11:46PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Martha (marthag503) I have finished and have more to say about other characters than Tracy, but I'll let the story digest before I say anything else. Great book! One of my favorites so far this year. I'm so glad it was a moderator's choice.

One of the reasons I talked about Tracy so much is that the version of the novel I read was from 1944. It was the 12th printing of the wartime version of the book (unabridged) and was only 250 pages because they had to print it in smaller font to save paper due to the paper shortage during the war. The cost of the book in 1944 was $2.75 (and I bought it used for 10.50). Anyway, the back of the book cover has blurbs where one of the reviewers (Lewis Gannett of the Herald Tribune) says, "A passionate novel about two decent people, impossibly in love..." I was trying to see how people could feel Tracy was a decent person while I was reading. After reading more about Lillian Smith, I continue to think he represented how Lillian Smith felt segregation ruined individuals and societies.


message 31: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Read about the history of the novel Strange Fruit -in The Strange Life of Strange Fruit, Deep South Magazine, Erin Z. Bass, December, 2012.


message 32: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (last edited Mar 12, 2016 08:39AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
And, here is another fine article on Strange Fruit and Lillian E. Smith. Lillian Smith's Bombshell Novel about Interracial Love, Nathaniel Rich, The Daily Beast, May 25, 2014.


message 33: by Jane (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jane | 738 comments These are great articles thank you for posting the links


message 34: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
Jane wrote: "These are great articles thank you for posting the links"

Jane, you're welcome! I do love the stories behind the story. *smile*


message 35: by Lawyer, "Moderator Emeritus" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lawyer (goodreadscommm_sullivan) | 2699 comments Mod
In one word, this book is magnificent. Maxwell, Georgia, is a town that treats things known by everyone as secrets. It is easier to deny the truth than admit it. But an act of violence will unravel what the town would rather ignore. It is difficult to believe that this novel was the first work of Lillian Smith.


message 36: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Laura | 1926 comments Mod
The exchange between Henry's parents that Henry and Tracy hear when they are young about color, broke my heart.


message 37: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Laura | 1926 comments Mod
I promise I'm still actively reading this! Between NCAA/SEC basketball, home repairs and kiddos school activities, I haven't had a lot of reading time. It's not the reading material, it's me!!!!


message 38: by Kim (new) - added it

Kim Kaso | 590 comments March Madness and Daredevil Season 2 slowed me down this weekend.


message 39: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Laura | 1926 comments Mod
Yes! Another bball fan! Therefore, you know the struggle is real!!!!


message 40: by Kim (new) - added it

Kim Kaso | 590 comments Indeed. We are big basketball fans here, my husband bought me PAC-10 tournament tickets (before the expansion) when my daughter was @ UCLA when they had Russell Westbrook & a roster of players who all went to the NBA. I happily spent hours watching the games in the Staple Center even though I had what turned out to be "walking" pneumonia.


message 41: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Laura | 1926 comments Mod
Kim
Us book nerds have got to do a bracket next year! The week before we spent five days at the SEC tournament. I miss it when bball is over but it does get me back on reading track.


message 42: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane Barnes | 3864 comments Mod
For me it's NCAA, North CarolinaTarheels for the win! And, the 5th season of House of Cards. I still read, just let other things go. (Like housework, cooking, etc.) Thank goodness my daughter is grown and out of the house.


message 43: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Laura | 1926 comments Mod
I forgot H of C. Only finished episode 3 of this season. Josh and I have a pact that we watch this series together, so we are moving slowly through the new season. Can you say "wicked"?


message 44: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane Barnes | 3864 comments Mod
Or evil, Claire and Frances are reaching new heights with evil manipulation this year, that's for sure!


message 45: by Suzy (new)

Suzy (goodreadscomsuzy_hillard) | 211 comments Or The Voice! The Voice is distracting me. :)


message 46: by John (new) - rated it 3 stars

John | 533 comments So I'm 130 pages into this. While I have little empathy for Tracy, I have less for Nonnie. See seems the voice of ignorant bliss, of which I have little patience,

Taking a moment for Tracy. There are a few things to keep in mind. 1st; He has just returned from the European trenches and brought home his existential question of Why. It is a Big why, born in filth and fed by blind obedience to orders. Up and at em boys. Over the wall and we'll see who comes home and for what those that didn't died for.

2nd; Henry was beat by Mamie for sassing a white girl? Mamie who raised them both as one. This is the day Tracy learns that he enjoys a position of privilege. I found this to be a moving episode.

I haven't come to the part where he behaves despicably.

The underlying current the Christian religion or any religion plays in creating and reinforcing a dehumanizing status quo is particularly poinient.

I keep wondering who is going to be lynched.

As an Arizona boy, I hear tell there are prickly pear in Georgia! Can this be true?


message 47: by Laura, "The Tall Woman" (new) - rated it 4 stars

Laura | 1926 comments Mod
I think Charlie, Tom's son, may be a character that I saw a glimmer of hope in by his questioning. He asked "why" can't you make a Negro your social equal! I think he saw a bigger picture. He stated, you can't be a Christian in the South, even if you wanted to because of the setup. Everybody gouging those beneath him, all while singing hymns. (I paraphrased)


message 48: by John (new) - rated it 3 stars

John | 533 comments A rising tide lifts all boats. While we all hope to do the right thing, we do what we can, what our lives have brought us at any particular moment to do. Inertia is a huge force, It took 100 yr for MLK to show up. Another 50 and here we are still growing warts. Progress has been made.


back to top