Monday, June 26, 2017

Book Review: Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham book cover and review
Dreamland Burning is a powerful book.  I know I'm not the first to say that, but it's the truth.  Gut wrenching.

Dreamland Burning uses dual narration effectively.  Rowan narrates from the present, as human bones are found in the floor of what used to be the servants quarters in her century old house in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Rowan's family doesn't have servants, but they are wealthy.  Her mother is African American and her father is Caucasian.

Will is the other narrator, who slowly takes us through the events leading up to and during the Tulsa riot in 1921. Will's father is Caucasian and his mother is Native American. And yes, he does reveal whose body is under the floor and I was surprised.  The clues are vague, but tend to lead in a different direction.

It's a good thing the narration switches back and forth.  When it got to the point where my discomfort was getting to be too much, the narration switched at just the right time.  This pulls you through the book very quickly.

Dreamland Burning is much more than a forensic investigation, although that lends a very interesting aspect to the story.  It's an examination of race relations in the 1920s and perhaps more importantly, in the current day.

The messages are powerful.  But the story is captivating and in no way preachy. I'm a white woman who lives about 25 miles from Ferguson, Missouri, and I have preconceived notions about "justice" and those notions recently  have been constantly in flux.  (Not that proximity means I have more feelings than anyone else, but somehow seeing your locality portrayed on the news night after night seems more personal.) Dreamland Burning has helped to clarify those feelings some more.

I'm not here to rant, but this story has a nice, fairly happy ending -- at least it seems like it might.  I'm not sure many of the other stories recently in the news do.

Somehow I've got to get my teens to read this book.  It seems like they either all go for fantasy or romance, not hard-hitting contemporary novels.  I may just force this one on my book club next year...

Published by Little, Brown BFYR February 21, 2017
Copy obtained from the library
371 pages

Rating: 5/5

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  1. I’ve had this book on my TBR list since before it came out. I guess I need to make it a higher priority on the list. I’m glad you liked it.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  2. Well, I am moving this book up my reading list for the summer. Though retired, I still want to stay connected tot he Printz Award chatter and help my district select the Mock Printz books for their reading list. This book sounds like it should be on our list.


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