Wednesday, June 2, 2010

#BookReview: The King of Colored Town - Darryl Wimberley

Nothing exciting ever happened in Cilla Handsom's small town of Laureate, Florida.  Divided as most towns are by the railroad tracks, Cilla lives in the section of Laureate called Colored Town.  Born to a retarded mother, Cilla's days are filled with attending school and attending to her infirmed mother.  Her monotonous routine is uprooted the day Joe Billy King arrives in town.

Running from events he witnessed down in Jacksonville, Joe Billy arrives in Colored Town ready for a new beginning. An aspiring musician himself, he paints guitars of established players in exchange for money and free lessons or an opportunity to sit in with them.  When he meets Cilla and discovers her gift for reading music, a mutual adoration society is formed.

Integration is coming to Laureate, whether or not the good white people in town are ready for it.  Cilla and Joe Billy are just two of a handful of students from the black school that will be integrating Laureate High.  When Cilla is found stealing sheet music from the band room, it's the outspoken Miss Chandler who arranges for her to take piano lessons from the band director, Mr. Pellicore.  In exchange for learning the french horn and filling the empty first seat chair in his marching band, Mr. Pellicore agrees to teach Cilla to play the piano.

Cilla's love of music, combined with support from both Miss Chandler and Mr. Pellicore lead to an opportunity to audition for a scholarship to Florida State University.  It's no surprise that there are members of her community, both black and white, that are envious of her and will stop at nothing to keep her from achieving her dream.  Luckily for her, she has Joe Billy in her corner.

What did you like about this book?
I started this book thinking I knew exactly how it would play out and I was pleasantly surprised with the twists and turns it took.

What did you dislike about this book?
The only really problem I had was with the naming of Joe Billy.  Given that the character's name was Joseph William, I thought Joe Willy would have sounded more believable.  Joe Billy just doesn't roll off the tongue the same way.  Of course, that's just my opinion.

What could the author do to improve this book?
Not much.  As a white author writing using an African-American voice, I thought he did exceptionally well.

360pp
Published April 2007




Theme: Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday

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