Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Unstoppable Octobia May by Sharon G. Flake

I am continuing my look at jFIC books with a female protagonist. Some that I have read have likable personalities but
 deal with issues that though important to them are not important in the grand scheme of things. of  Set in the Midwest in Jim Crow 1950s Octobia May lives with her aunt Shuma who runs a boarding house. Octobia has a vivid imagination and along with her best friend (a boy) is on a crusade of sorts against one of the boarders, Mr. Davenport who she thinks is a vampire. To be fair, Mr. Davenport does walk around mainly at night and she also glimpses him skulking around at the graveyard.

Octobia's aunt Shuma is very permissive and allows her a lot of leeway. Some times she gets herself into trouble and one night she follows Mr. Davenport downtown hoping to catch him turning someone into a vampire, she does see him and a lady get into a fight and then the lady winds up in the river. Davenport is no fool however and becomes more stealthy in order to evade Octobia's prying eyes.

Things get even stranger when Aunt Shuma in an attempt to get some capital for investment purposes asks Mr. Davenport for a favor. Octobia sees firsthand the choices a spinster must make in that day and age. Aunt Shuma to her credit had tried various ways to get social and cultural cachet.

In addition to the vampire theme the book explores various social themes in the African American community such as the role of soldiers in the segregated army of World War II, the phenomenon of "passing", the strong sense of community that existed in the fight for civil rights. There is also a brief mention of the role of Jewish refuge scholars at black colleges.

I like the dual meaning of the word freedom as employed in this book. Aunt Shuma tirelessly underscores to Octobia that some children in other parts of the country cannot go to school. Aunt Shuma is also seeking but one senses that Octobia will have to find this one for herself. At the end of the work Octobia shows personal growth and a burgeoning political awareness which bodes well for her. I would not mind reading one or two more books about this incredible little heroine.

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