Sweetbitter

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Overview

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LSU Press

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The first hardcover fiction release from Broken Moon is a promising debut on both counts. Poet Gibbons (Five Pears or Peaches), who is also the editor of TriQuarterly, has written a sweeping yet intimate first novel that tells the story of the Choctaw Indians through the troubled life of one Reuben S. Sweetbitter, half Choctaw, half white. Set around the turn of the century, the story focuses on the protagonist's experience of racism. When his mother dies as they're heading west from Mississippi, young Reuben must make his own way in the world and eventually lands in East Texas. There, he learns that he fits in nowhere-neither among Indians nor ``coloreds,'' and certainly not among whites. Trouble is assured when, in 1910, Reuben falls in love with Martha Clarke, the white daughter of a local lawyer. Threatened with a lynching for their act of miscegenation, the couple flees. For a time, they live in peace, but the pursuit by whites bent on racial purity never stops and, finally, an inevitable day of reckoning arrives. Gibbons artfully combines Choctaw myth and history with Reuben's personal search for identity. Though greater use of dialogue would have enlivened the narrative, his graceful and evocative prose makes this an absorbing story. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Gibbons's first novel takes place in east Texas in 1910 during the time of white rule-not by law but by lynch mob. Amid the suffocating racism and fear, half-Choctaw, half-white Reuben Sweetbitter and Martha Clarke, a white woman, fall in love. Forbidden to be seen together, they escape to the town of Harriet, where an influential friend of Martha helps them settle down and raise a family. Atypical of love stories, this realistic work maintains a historical perspective in lending the couple short-lived happiness. Martha's brother James comes for vengance, and Reuben flees to the forest, which has always been his refuge from the white world. Reuben and Martha's love is strong, but, dishearteningly, racism is stronger. Timely in the subject of interracial love, this authentic, richly detailed novel plumbs sacrifice, fear, and the loss of one's identity, bringing the anguish of the two young lovers to life. Highly recommended.-Lisa Degliantoni, "Library Journal"
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807128718
  • Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2003
  • Series: Voices of the South Series
  • Pages: 421
  • Product dimensions: 5.56 (w) x 8.62 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

Reginald Gibbons is the author of seven books of poetry and two of fiction. An editor, translator, critic, and essayist as well, he has received the Carl Sandburg Award, the Balcones Poetry Prize, a Pushcart Prize, and the Jesse Jones Fiction Award, among other honors. He grew up in a semirural area near Houston, Texas, and is one-eighth Choctaw. He is a professor of English at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

LSU Press

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