Angel of Greenwood by Randi Pink
A historical YA novel that takes place during the Greenwood Massacre of 1921, in an area of Tulsa, OK, known as the Black Wall Street.
Seventeen-year-old Isaiah Wilson is, on the surface, a town troublemaker, but is hiding that he is an avid reader and secret poet, never leaving home without his journal. A passionate follower of WEB. Du Bois, he believes that black people should rise up to claim their place as equals.
Sixteen-year-old Angel Hill is a loner, mostly disregarded by her peers as a goody-goody. Her father is dying, and her family’s financial situation is in turmoil. Also, as a loyal follower of Booker T. Washington, she believes, through education and tolerance, that black people should rise slowly and without forced conflict.
Though they’ve attended the same schools, Isaiah never noticed Angel as anything but a dorky, Bible toting church girl. Then their English teacher offers them a job on her mobile library, a three-wheel, two-seater bike. Angel can’t turn down the money and Isaiah is soon eager to be in such close quarters with Angel every afternoon.
But life changes on May 31, 1921 when a vicious white mob storms the community of Greenwood, leaving the town destroyed and thousands of residents displaced. Only then, Isaiah, Angel, and their peers realize who their real enemies are.
Angel of Greenwood was a tough read. I came very close to crying more than once.
This book is very character driven. Angel is pretty close to the perfect teenage girl. She believes she’s on earth to help people. Isaiah was hard to like. He blames his bad behavior on other people, mainly his best friend, Muggy. Isaiah has been a trouble maker and a bully. But he’s also a poet. Isaiah sees Angel dance and falls in love with her. But he’s still rude. Seriously, I wanted to smack him so many times.
The book takes place over about a week in 1921. They live in Greenwood which has been called Black Wall Street. The people there owned businesses and were successful. Not everyone, but it was a good place to live. The author’s note explains a lot of what happened during that time. Greenwood was burned down by white men (and a few women who looted). Many people died and the town was destroyed. Angel and Isaiah grew closer during this time and she fell in love with him, too. But there were so many other things happening. Angel’s dad was dying. There were kids that couldn’t go to school, so their teacher asked them both to spend their summers bringing books to them. Angel was always helping at home and didn’t really get to do things she wanted. So taking this job was perfect for her.
I’m going to share a few quotes below since this review is a bit hard to write. I really liked this book and the poetry in it.
The book has a lot of darkness. Warnings for bullying, cheating, misogny, racism, illness, poverty, fire, looting, talk of burning flesh (human and animal), abuse.
Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my review copy. All quotes taken from ARC and may change before final publication.
Angel was the bolt of lightening, and poetry was the conduit, channeling all of that raw energy into tangible words.
Angel wanted to help people, but she also wanted to live a life of her own. Without ghosts and vendettas dropped onto her like blinding raindrops.
Mrs. Turner didn’t care one bit if her patrons could or could not pay. More than money, she longed to inject beautiful into forgotten places.
Randi Pink grew up in the South and attended a mostly white high school. She lives with her husband and their two rescue dogs in Birmingham, Alabama, where she works for a branch of National Public Radio. Into White is her fiction debut.
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