Thursday, July 28, 2011

Book Review for September's Autumn by Sandra Newberry

September's Autumn

 September's Autumn by Sandra Newberry is fictional story written as part personal story and part documentary. There's basically two parts to the book: the personal and the historical. The personal centers around a girl named Autumn. Taking place in Mississippi in the 1920's, Autumn's family is a group of house and field servants to a woman named Penelope and her husband.

Autumn's grandparents were slaves prior to the Civil War and her grandmother would often share stories of that time period as the family picked cotton under the sweltering sun. Autumn and her sister's reactions to these stories are mixed. Autumn listens with a mingled sense of interest and shame not wanting to hear but curiosity compelling her to. Her sister is merely annoyed and impatient at her grandmother for dredging up a history that holds no relevance for her.

Autumn herself has a special relationship with her mistress, Penelope. Penelope dotes on her like a daughter. Indeed, Autumn could pass for her daughter for she's as light skinned as the elderly woman. Newberry writes at length on the mutual dependence yet fear, prejudice and mistrust the two races have for each other.

The other part to Newberry's story is about twenty black men who are murdered in horrible, despicable ways by the Klu Klux Klan. Newberry goes into so much detail of the names and families of the victims as well as the history of the KKK and the perpetrators of the crimes that I looked up the particulars on the web to see if she was recounting actual crimes taken from history. I couldn't find anything on the men she wrote about but I think that Newberry must have thoroughly researched her subject to give such a convincing account.

I don't know why Newberry chose such a subject to write about. On the one hand I think it's important for America to remember a sad epoch of our history so we don't repeat it. On the other hand, racial prejudice is not what is depriving the  black community of opportunity these days. If a writer really wanted to help African Americans as well as an ever growing population of white society, they need to study the current reasons people are poor. It's not a lack of opportunity but a lack of vision and spiritual integrity.

I taught for ten years at a high poverty/minority school. Every student was given the same education. There was no segregation, many of the teachers were black as well as the principal. The problem I saw was how many of our children were born out of wed lock with many siblings, each with a different father and everybody living off of the nanny state: food stamps, welfare and government housing. 

  The current biggest cause of death among young black Americans is not the Klu Klux Klan. It's gang warfare and drugs. I don't think it's coincidental that after reading this book I read a book called Courageous that deals with just such a problem and its roots in fatherlessness. (You can read about it in my next review.)

Other than that observation and the fact that Newberry equates racial prejudice with prejudice and violence against homosexuals (which, of course, not only betrays the actual date of the book but I wonder how many black people would appreciate the comparison) I would have to say she has done a good job with this book.
Newberry's writing style is eloquent and fluid. I also looked up information about her but could find nothing. If this is a first book for her I wish her luck in her future endeavors. I think she has a lot of potential.

I received a complimentary copy of  this book as a member of the
Dorrance Publishing Book Review Team. Visit   if you would like to buy a copy of the book or to learn how you can become a member of the Book Review Team.


  1. Sharon, you review so well. Are you on GoodReads? If so you will find me there as Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont. I would be delighted to link up.

  2. Anastasia: (love your name, by the way)Thanks. I'm not on GoodReads although I think I should be-especially if they give out books to review. Thanks for reminding me of it. If I get on it, I will definitely link up.

  3. Hi Sharon,
    I followed the link to this review and commend it as well written. I don't think it's the one about new ageism as referenced in the post you put on my review site. Send me the link for that one - but if I have my wires mixed (which frequently happens), I will apologize in advance.

    -Steve King

  4. You are so right this is not the one on new ageism. Let me try again.


I welcome comments from anyone with a mutual interest in the subjects I written about.