The Moon in Our Hands

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Overview

From the author of the award-winning novel Play for a Kingdom comes a masterful story inspired by the early life of Walter White, a dynamic but now all-but-forgotten figure in the history of civil rights. The twenty-four-year-old White was recruited in 1918 to work for the NAACP. Just weeks after he began, a horrible lynching took place in a small town in Tennessee and White was sent there to pose as a traveling salesman. His mission was to stay as long as it took to pry the secrets out of the town. Dyja paints a...

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Overview

From the author of the award-winning novel Play for a Kingdom comes a masterful story inspired by the early life of Walter White, a dynamic but now all-but-forgotten figure in the history of civil rights. The twenty-four-year-old White was recruited in 1918 to work for the NAACP. Just weeks after he began, a horrible lynching took place in a small town in Tennessee and White was sent there to pose as a traveling salesman. His mission was to stay as long as it took to pry the secrets out of the town. Dyja paints a complex portrait of shifting identity as White, a blonde, blue-eyed, and very light-skinned African-American, moves back and forth between white and black, working his way into both the good-old-boy network of the town and the besieged African-American community. Forced to rethink his assumptions about what really happened in the town of Sibley Springs the night of the lynching, he struggles to establish guilt and innocence in a foreign landscape, confronting as well his own questions of identity. When another lynching looms, White must decide if he will risk everything to save a black life and the white souls of Sibley Springs.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Dyja (Meet John Trow; Play for a Kingdom) turns his sights on rural Tennessee in 1918, and specifically on the fictional town of Sibley Springs, where "they lynched some colored." The man who was lynched, "a farmer,... had been strung up after a disagreement with three youths on the street.... Tortured first, then castrated, he'd finally been burned alive by the good people of the town." Walter White, a real historical participant in the Civil Rights movement of the day, is sent by the NAACP in New York to investigate. He is a fair-haired black man whose coloring and features do not betray his lineage. Though constantly fearful of being identified, White can easily pass for Caucasian-until examined by black eyes. His secret and his double life provide a fine tension throughout the novel and justify its many meditations on the significance of race. An articulate and congenial man, White quickly wins the trust of several town figures and learns of their roles in the lynching. However, the complexities of culture and character soon enmesh the idealistic young White so completely that he cannot bring himself to leave. His struggle to comprehend the townspeople, the South and himself is utterly convincing. The novel offers no easy explanations, but instead is driven by the ambiguities and contradictions of human nature. Agent, Lisa Bankoff at ICM. (Feb.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Third-novelist Dyja imagines the first foray into battle of a real-life anti-lynching crusader. Walter White headed the NAACP from 1931 to 1955 and investigated dozens of lynchings. The blond, blue-eyed White was able to pass as a Caucasian, though African-Americans could see his mixed racial heritage. Here, Dyja (Meet John Trow, 2002, etc.) has the 24-year-old arriving in the fictional Sibley Springs, Tennessee, soon after a 1918 lynching. His NAACP boss, the renowned James Weldon Johnson, has told him to "bring back the story." Posing as a salesman, White quickly identifies the ringleaders in the hunting down, torture and burning of Cleon Quine, a prosperous Negro farmer who had shot dead two white hoodlums harassing him. He establishes a rapport with these mean ol' boys and retrieves a souvenir from the lynching: Quine's finger. White himself has hated Caucasians ever since his childhood friend, a white boy, joined a mob surrounding his Atlanta home. He learned a bitter lesson: "Niggers were prey animals." Yet in this backwoods town, he feels whites may not be beyond redemption. Dyja paints a conflicted young man, forced into an unnatural camaraderie with these lowlifes, constantly fearful that his cover will be blown. One antagonist is Scipio, a Stepin Fetchit character who knows White's racial identity and tags him as a troublemaker. Throughout, Dyja's townspeople are well drawn while his treatment of the lynching remains heavy-handed. He writes of Quine's Passion and Golgotha, though his own daughter says Quine was no Jesus Christ, cordially disliked by blacks as well as whites. White's self-questioning becomes wearisome, and Dyja seems unsure what to do with him during his briefstay. His rescue of the posse organizer from drowning and his temporary abduction by Scipio appear contrived, as does his climactic escape from his own lynching. Dyja does well in spotlighting a neglected civil rights activist, less well in dramatizing the nature of evil.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786717071
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 1/9/2006
  • Pages: 354
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Dyja

Thomas Dyja is the author of Play for a Kingdom, which was named one of the best first novels of 1998 by Library Journal and Meet John Trow, which the Times of London called one of the ten best novels of 2003. He lives in New York City with his wife and two children.

Biography

Thomas Dyja, has worked as a book editor and literary agent. He is the author of the award-winning novel Play for a Kingdom, as well as Meet John Trow and The Moon in Our Hand. Dyja presently lives in New York City with his wife and two children.
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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 31, 1962
    2. Place of Birth:
      Chicago, Illinois
    1. Education:
      B.A in English, Columbia University

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2005

    Fiction as history

    The name of the town in the novel is Sibley Springs may be fictional but the murder was real. Read this novel as history and then visit Estill Springs, Tennessee and judge for yourself the degree of change.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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