“KEEP QUIET”— Buried Secrets and Warped Identities


“Keep Quiet”

Buried Secrets and Warped Identities

Amos Lassen

A supposedly reformed right-wing neo-Nazi leader is unable to stop trolling an elderly camp survivor on the train to Auschwitz by asking him, “What makes the Holocaust so special?” “Keep Quiet” is a dark documentary about buried secrets and warped identities. Since he was a teen, Csanad Szegedi wanted to be part of the leadership in the Jobbik, Hungary’s far-right anti-Semitic party. But then a disturbed colleague outs him as being as Jewish, and this it provokes a reckoning with his deep-in-denial family and an alliance with a rabbi who wants to guide him to reconciliation with his heritage. Szegedi then begins to apologize to the Jews that he had once slandered and harassed. Yet, he yearns to be in the spotlight at the same time that he shows his face to the world. Lacking in self-awareness, the impassive, closed-off Szegedi’s motives are unreadable as well as those of the filmmakers’ as they avoid drawing conclusions about a subject that can make many viewers uneasy.


This film provokes stunned reflection on generations of Eastern European who were hated because they were Jews and we see the depths that some will undertake to attempt to forget the past. Hungarian politician Csanad Szegedi had been a committed fascist, nationalist and anti-Semite since he was in high school. He was a founding member of Jobbik and ran the Hungarian Guard, a paramilitary organization that has now been banned. He was elected to the European Parliament in 2009. And then in 2012, at the height of his career, an unexpected revelation exposed by opponents within the far right ended it all.

Szegedi is Jewish and he lied about it and he comes across as a conflicted political figure. His mother and grandmother decided it would be safer to live as Christians. Even though his grandmother survived Auschwitz, she hid her story and her tattoo from her grandchildren. Directors Joseph Martin and Sam Blair do not look at the logic or ethics of her decision. Rather, they focus their energy and their film on Szegedi’s reaction to the news. The fallout came very quickly and his whole life had been built around his anti-Semitic community. That fell away in almost an instant. Szegedi went to the synagogue, looking for a new community to replace the one he lost. Rabbi Boruch Oberlander, an American-born Orthodox rabbi who moved to Budapest after the Cold War, agreed to meet with him and that is the main focus of the film. We are with Szegedi’s on his spiritual journey and relationship with the rabbi. This documentary is a story of repentance but

Szegedi does not seem to understand this. Within a year of his self-discovery, religious conversion and political rebirth, he begins traveling to speak at the events of major Jewish organizations and we see that he still searched for applause. The directors understand this and their cinematic insistence on serious repentance extends beyond the backdrop in front of which they shot all of their interview footage.

We see Rabbi Oberlander arguing with those who challenge his pupil’s right to inclusion after a life of such strong anti-Semitism. When Szegedi himself speaks at a Jewish conference in Germany, he is met with a lot of opposition. One woman, who left Hungary to escape the hateful rhetoric spewed by Jobbik and its supporters, refuses to accept him just on his word. After all, it has happened so quickly and the film refuses to really allow Szegedi to have a clean transition from racist to Jewish public figure.

After his grandmother’s death, Szegedi finally makes a pilgrimage to Auschwitz. He is accompanied by Eva ‘Bobby’ Neumann, a survivor of the camp herself who returns to the site in order to educate others. She challenges Szegedi’s still-entrenched Holocaust denial. He argues with all of the noncommittal equivocation of a politician.


Szegedi never attains the enlightenment of a man who has emerged greater than before. His desired transformation is not possible. Over time, he does relent to the power of historical reality, and the need to repent for a life of propagating hatred but the truth does not set him free—it only brings him back to the tragic knowledge that the Jewish people already knew.

“Keep Quiet” explores whether a person can ever truly change and what the motive for that supposed change is. The most powerful scene comes when Szegedi visits Auschwitz and this is a revealing and raw scene as we watch his mind split open. Szegedi has the nerve, as a young Hungarian raised in a stable middle-class setting, to sit opposite of a Holocaust survivor, Eva Bobby Neumann, on a train to Auschwitz, and lecture her about how the Holocaust was trumped up as Jewish propaganda. He can look this woman in the eyes and tell her that he’s tired of hearing about the Jews’ suffering because he is tired of being made to feel guilty and we see how a culture can eat another alive and somehow live with itself. We see something here about nationalist attitudes; those that espouse them hate carrying the guilt that is associated when acts committed by their forbearers especially when the crimes committed were against Jews who are thought to be cosmopolitan which really says that extremists feel socially inferior to their prey. The resentment they feel is an incarnation of anti-intellectualism, of disenfranchised white men misidentifying their true enemy.

Szegedi’s outing as a Jew ruins his political career but what is so interesting is that he embraces Judaism with the same fervor that he once demonized Jews. We see his transition as a sudden act— Szegedi seems to regard his shocking ideological realignment as a career move, and his self-absorption is prodigious. He does see Jews as human until they belong to his family, and he experiences Auschwitz purely through the way that his family, an extension of himself, suffered. When Neumann sheds tears on the Auschwitz grounds, sharing a personal memory with Szegedi, we are not happy and we resent his experiencing this moment since he hasn’t earned the vulnerability that Neumann offers him.

Martin and Blair don’t obviously editorialize Szegedi, prompting us to make any definitive conclusion about his about-face and whether it is legitimate or not. The filmmakers show how a culture can eat another alive and somehow live with itself, how Nazis and neo-Nazis, and, by extension, other far-right parties, can see themselves as something other than monsters. I see Szegedi as a smug, disingenuous, disgusting human being who is fascinatingly shameless and a weapon of political instigation, who continually seeks a context for self-glorification of which any will do.

“ONE WEEK AND A DAY” — Life is Worth Living


“One Week and a Day” (“Shavua ve Yom”)

Life Is Worth Living

Amos Lassen

When Eyal finishes the week of mourning for his late son, his wife urges him to return to their routine but instead he gets high with a young neighbor and sets out to discover that there are still things in his life worth living for. Asaph Polonsky’s feature debut garnered top prizes at the Jerusalem Film Festival and it gives a look at moving on after a great loss.

The film takes place over just two days – the last day of Vicky and Eyal’s son’s shiva, (for those unfamiliar, shiva is the traditional Jewish mourning period following one’s funeral), and the day after shiva ended. Vicky and Eyal lost their son to cancer when he was still in his mid-twenties. The story follows them as they mourn and struggle to get back to everyday life. Vicky attempts to push herself through her appointments and responsibilities— she goes back to work, tutors a student, and goes to the dentist while Eyal is preoccupied with finding his son’s blanket, which he believes was left at the hospice and getting high on the medical cannabis he took from there. Polonsky uses the cannabis as an opportunity for laughs, showing Eyal trying to hide it in his fly, and his failure to roll a joint. It is also a means of showing just how deep the sorrow is by prompting Eyal to venture into something that is so unfamiliar to him. After staying up for hours but still being unable to roll a joint successfully, Eyal asks his neighbor’s son, Zooler, the following morning to show him what to do. The two families used to be close, but after Eyal’s son became ill, there was little interaction between them aside from just being pleasant. Surprisingly, as the two of them spend more time together and meet others, Eyal becomes better prepared to move on.


one-week1While this is a comedy, we do not laugh aloud. Rather we grin as we watch and at times feel uneasy. For example, there is a scene at the cemetery when Eyal wants to reserve the plots next to his son for himself and his wife. When he arrives, a funeral is taking place and a man is eulogizing his sister. As we listen, we see the guy cleaning cars where birds have left their droppings and then he loses and breaks down. As an audience, this gives us the chance to relax as it gives us a peek into Eyal’s emotions. The scene serves as transition from grief to acceptance making Eyal see that he needs to get himself together and move on. But there is something much deeper about this film and that is in the way it treats mourning and how we react after a huge loss. In Eyal’s case, he finds his way back into the world of the living through the people around him.

“The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature” by Adam Kirsch— Our Literary Tradition


Kirsch, Adam. “The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature”, W. W. Norton & Company. 2016.

Our Literary Tradition

Amos Lassen

Adam Kirsch is what the New York Times called a “rare literary authority” and he has been regarded as a major critic. He takes on an odyssey of the Jewish literary tradition from the Bible to the modern age and on the way has chosen eighteen texts that he sees as classics. The Jewish people, as part of its identity, have been “people of the book” and generally that book is the bible yet there are other writings that are part of the Jewish literary tradition. There are four main categories in identifying the Jews and they are God, Torah, the Land of Israel and the people hood itself.

In this volume, we look at the central themes and questions of Jewish history and culture as it appears and/or is reflected in the Jewish literary canon.

These are the nature of God, the right way to understand what is written in the Bible, the relationship of the Jews to Israel, and living as a minority in Diaspora. Adam Kirsch looks at these in eighteen classic texts (including the biblical books of Deuteronomy and Esther, the philosophy of Maimonides, the autobiography of the medieval businesswoman Glückel of Hameln, “Ethics of our Fathers” and the Zionist manifestoes of Theodor Herzl). What I find exceptional here are two points—one is that I am fairly sure that there are many, many Jews who have not yet, or even plan to, read all of these texts. Secondly is that the goal of the book is too open there texts to those who do not know them. We are presented with new ways to think about our classical literature and the influence that it has on us. Looking at all eighteen, we realize that the Jews are a people who lives and creates and we see that in the history of ideas, Jews still hold onto one basic idea of being the people of the book. We are taken by the hand and led through these classic texts and in examining them we find that the secret if what has kept us going as a nation is found within them. I also found it fascinating that God is not necessarily present in all eighteen books and we see that Spinoza is right up there with Sholem Aleichem, Mendelssohn, HaLevi and the Zohar. This is the kind of book that we will return to over and over again especially after we have opened ourselves to reading any of the eighteen mentioned here. I have read fourteen of the texts here (but then I grew up in a youth movement that concerned itself with important Jewish writing) and now I am anxious to read the other four and then return to each.

“Jews and the American Religious Landscape” by Uzi Rebhun— A Sociological and Demographic Study


Rebhun, Uzi. “Jews and the American Religious Landscape”, Columbia University Press, 2016.

A Sociological and Demographic Study

Amos Lassen

In “Jews and the American Religious Landscape”, Uzi Rebhun explores major complementary facets of American Judaism and Jewish life through an analysis of contemporary demographic and sociological data. Rebhun focuses on the most important aspects of social development (geographic location, socioeconomic stratification, family dynamics, group identification, and political orientation) thus adding empirical value to questions about the strengths of Jews as a religious and cultural group in America as well as the strategies they have developed to integrate successfully into a Christian society.

Using an advanced analyses of data gathered by the Pew Research Center, we see here that Jews, like other religious and ethnic minorities identify strongly with their religion and culture. However, their particular religiosity, along with other factors (population dispersion, professional networks, and education), have created varying outcomes in different contexts. Because we are living under the influence of a Christian majority and a liberal political system, Jews have cultivated a distinct ethos of solidarity and egalitarianism. This allows Judaism to absorb new patterns in ways that mirror its integration into American life.

There is a great deal of information here and it has been thoughtfully construed as it gives us a look what it means to be an American Jew today. Rebhun gives an in-depth comparative analysis of the sociopolitical and religious patterns of America’s Jews and this aids in understanding the place of Jews in America’s religious landscape.

Rebhun presents American Judaism in relation to the other religious traditions within the United States. He identifies American Judaism in terms of “social class composition, demographic dynamics, educational attainment, religious versus ethnic adherence, native-born versus immigrant composition, religious practices, and voter choice in U.S. presidential elections”. This is truly a read that enlightens and is also a combination of Rebhun’s ability to bring together structural analysis with cultural analysis. We see American Jews in multiple, overlapping contexts and the results are fascinating. Regardless of what he examines, Rebhun’s analysis dismisses accepted wisdom and points instead to the enormous value of comparison when trying to understand American Jews.


“Broken Tablets: Levinas, Derrida, and the Literary Afterlife of Religion” by Sarah Hammerschlag— Political and Philosophical Thought


Hammerschlag, Sarah. “Broken Tablets: Levinas, Derrida, and the Literary Afterlife of Religion”, Columbia University Press Reprint, 2016.

Political and Philosophical Thought

Amos Lassen

During a period of thirty years, twentieth-century French philosophers Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida spoke to each other through their texts. They were both raised with a Jewish heritage and both has backgrounds in phenomenology. They were also considered to be at the margins of philosophy based upon their thoughts on religion and literature. Sarah Hammerschlag not only follows and chronicles the interactions between them but also says that their positions were more than philosophical and that they were, in fact, also political.

Levinas reached his opinions based upon his writings on Judaism and the existence of the State of Israel while Derrida looked at the Jewish question literarily. Jewish survival, he felt, could only be approached through reflections on modern literature’s religious legacy and this thought gave Derrida the means and the way to look anew at democracy. Through Hammerschlag’s reexamination of Derrida and Levinas’s textual exchange, we see not only the friendship that existed between the two men but also the possibilities for debates within European philosophy, the study of religion, and political theology.

The two men have differing and divergent views on religion and language even though they shared proximity in biography and philosophy. Derrida takes up the ethical claim of Levinas ironically and it is based in fact and grounded. We see how these thinkers are bound up with one another even as Levinas presses philosophy toward religion and for Derrida sees literature at the heart of sanctity and betrayal. As we look deeper into the two men, the question of what is it to be a Jewish thinker comes to the fore. We indeed see that there is a sense of otherness and while we never really know exactly what this means, we know that it is there.

This is a very important book for those interested in the study of religion and the relationship between ethics, politics, religion, and literature. As a graduate student, I spent a lot of time learning about deconstruction and see that it makes us question the truth of binary opposition as it destabilizes what is considered as conventional wisdom. Using the legacies of Derrida and Levinas, Hammerschlag examines the similarities that they shared and the dissimilarities that kept them apart. She then uses that to investigate more deeply the relationship between philosophy, religion, and literature, while complicating the argument still further by adding politics to the mix. She adds politics as a fourth dimension and we get a new look. Derrida and Levinas differed on metaphysical ideas and on whether or not the Jews have a sense of community.





“The Guy With The Knife”

A Murder

Amos Lassen

,Paul Broussard, a 27-year-old gay man in Houston Texas, was the fatal victim of a hate crime on July 4th 1991 during the early morning hours. Canadian filmmaker Alison Armstrong shows us what happened as a result of the murder that night and we learn that now some twenty-five years later seems to be moving toward a sense of closure.


The authorities were reluctant to investigate the circumstances of Broussard’s death at the time and it would have probably just remained as another unsolved crime in police records were it not for gay activist Roy Hill.  Hill immediately mobilized the local LGBT community into non-stop public protests and bombarded the media in such an effective way that ensured the case was never going to be forgotten. The police were forced to act and they made a series of arrests of a group of teenagers from one of the affluent suburbs of Houston and the bys arrested became known as the Woodlands 10 by the media.

They all entered into a series of plea-bargaining for their individual roles in what happened that night, and most of them were put on probation.  However Jon Buice, a seventeen-year-old was charged with actually stabbing Broussard twice, was advised by his lawyers to accept the best deal they could broker— a jail sentence of 45 years.


Years later Hill started to think about how he had cornered the authorities into being seen to be tough, and in their haste to plea bargain there had been not one single trial and the facts did not undergo a real examination as to what really happened that night. Hill began to think that as he was responsible for this constant pressuring to have a result put forward and that is was then therefore his fault that they over-reacted in giving Buice such an unheard of long sentence. He began communicating with Buice in jail, and through a series of letters, he got to know the young man quite well.  Eventually, he even fought as hard for his parole as he did to have him thrown in prison.

Armstrong shows matter-of-factly Hill uncovering evidence and it was Buice’s excellent good behavior record in jail, the three College degrees he has earned, and the other evidence that Hill discovers about that night almost 30 years ago that swayed his mind. We learn that not only were the First Responders very slow to arrive on the scene (and stabbed Broussard was still conscious) but there was a reluctance to help any injured gay man at that time because of the general paranoia and fear of the AIDS epidemic In fact, a new autopsy would clearly show that if Broussard had made it to hospital in time, he would still be alive after the stabbing.


As much as Hill tried to help Buice get released (through Texas’s very secretive Parole Board), there were other LGBT anti-violence activists lead by Andy Kaplan and supported by Broussard’s mother, who constantly petitioned to stop Buice getting parole.  They presented some very questionable evidence such as a totally unsupported claim that Buice was having an affair with a female Prison Chaplain and they managed to delay his release for several years before he was finally allowed up in 2014.

The documentary tries to remain neutral as possible but we do see that it tends to sympathetic to Hill’s commitment to secure Buice’s release because he believes he has served sufficient time for the crime, that it is almost impossible not be swayed.  Kaplan, however, does his best to make a case that Buice is faking his remorse and is not the model prisoner that he and Hill would have us believe but neither the authorities nor the viewers are convinced. The film convinces us, though, that destroying the life of one young man cannot bring back another.

“A. K. A. Nadia”— Reinventing Self


A.K.A Nadia

Reinventing Self

Amos Lassen

For more than twenty years, Maya Goldwasser has lived as a Jewish career woman, wife and mother. However, Maya was born as Nadia, daughter to a Muslim family. She abandoned her previous identity and there were no issues until her past is raised. What we see here is the story of life in a society filled with profound intolerance and xenophobia.


Maya is a happily married mother of two. She is a successful choreographer and everything seems to be perfect but this life is a lie. She has a hidden past that no one knows of. When she was twenty-years-old and just graduated from a Jewish-Arab girls’ school in Jerusalem, she was involved in a secret love affair with Nimer, a PLO activist. They moved to England, got secretly married and then Nimer was caught by the authorities and Nadia was left alone.


In England, Nadia realized the meaning of the step she had taken and that it has caused her to sever her ties with her family and she embraced a life of exile and escape. With Nimer being caught by the authorities, Nadia realized that there is no option of returning to Israel as authorities saw her as a terrorist. Her family felt that she had disgraced them.


A shady character provided her with the Israeli passport of a young Jewish woman and this enabled her to return to Israel.



With that return Nadia became Maya who then became a successful choreographer and married to Yoav, a Jewish official at the Ministry of Justice. They have two children. Then Nimer suddenly reappeared in Jerusalem and her past began to catch up. Yoav, noticed his wife’s distress, and realized that she was hiding something. Nadia was forced to deal with her identity conflict against the backdrop of the region’s political conflict.


Her husband, Yoav, is a senior official at the Ministry of Justice, and an impressive and charming man. As parents Maya and Yoav are career driven and since they have two demanding children, each day requires planning. On one evening Maya sees someone from her past and she runs. She said nothing tom anyone about it but it nags at her and will not let her loose causing a lack of sleep and causing her to disregard her routine activities. Her relationship with her husband has reached a crisis. The connection between the two heroines, Maya and Nadia, is the core of the film. This has a tremendous effect on everyone and if her family should find out, this could destroy it and cause her mother great grief.


This is a film about identity and the ability of society to accept the other and forgive their ‘otherness’. It is a story about innocent individuals who pay a terrible price and become the victims of a society that has gone awry. The question of when the private becomes political and the political becomes private is raised because of the inability to separate the two.

“VAMPYRES”— A Remake of the 1974 Classic



A Remake of the 1974 Classic

Amos Lassen

 “Vampyres” directed by Victor Matellano might be considered a re-imagining of Jose Ramon Larraz’s film of the same title (1974) but I cannot help but wonder why Matellano decided to do this. raises one question, before, during, and after viewing. Many of us know the story in the original film, two polymorphously perverse ‘vampire’ women, Fran and Miriam, go after and prey on passing travelers, and there is one unlucky named Ted that they keep for their own pleasure. The older film made up for what it lacked in plot by relying on atmosphere. It was a daring film back then in the way that it showed sexual passion and lots of blood. I did read that Larraz endorsed this remake before he died in 2013 yet this decision seems very strange to me. I wonder if Larraz knew that the new film would contain the same dialogue as his original.


Taking over for Marianne Morris and Anulka Dziubinska in the original movie, our vampires in the new film are played by Marta Flitch and Almudena Leon. Neither are given very much to do, and although both are happy enough to disrobe, it seems almost uncharitable to comment that only one of them seems particularly ‘into it’ when it comes to the girl on girl scenes. There is a lack of eroticism or presence and this is probably due miscasting. (Interesting that vampires also get boob jobs.


The rest of the cast is made up of a mix of Spanish and English actors, and there is a lot of dubbing taking place that makes the actors seem to be insincere about what they say. The other cast members were once promising and some were of yesteryear. Now here is an interesting fact; Larraz’s original film was made in the UK by a Spaniard while the remake is made by a Spaniard in Spain but pretending that it is taking place in the UK. Yet, there is no attempt to disguise that fact that it was filmed near Madrid, and the vampires’ hideout, is now a townhouse.


Now others may find the eroticism to be, shall we say, erotic. It is indeed raw and sado-masochistic and there is a lot of bloody and gore. The story is set in a stately English manor inhabited by two older lesbian vampires and with their only cohabitant, Ted, a man who imprisoned in the basement. When three campers enter their world and try to see the dark secrets there, the results are blood-curdling. The cinematography is impressive as are the special effects especially the makeup.


This is an exploitation film and therefore there is kissing and sex and blood. Throats are slit, faces are bitten, and arms are gashed. We see violence, cruelty and flesh. This is quite a disturbing film that is not for everyone. You may not be able to tell from what I have already written but I really like this film. It goes on my list of guilty pleasures and replaces “Vampyros Lesbos” which had been there for years.


 As I said earlier the story has moved from the English countryside to Spain and from a location filled with cemeteries and empty mansions to a very European-looking detached house in Spain. I felt that this hurts the atmosphere of the film and taken away some of the spookiness. As for the plot, it stays fairly closely to the original but then the story is simple anyway. Two bisexual vampire women (although they are never referred to as vampires) roam the countryside looking for victims to seduce and then feed upon. Some campers (three instead of two this time) pitch their tent near to the abandoned house where the beautiful vampire women bring back men for sex and murder, and soon become enchanted by the goings on in the old house. The ending is slightly different in this one and does fit a little more with the plot but this film and the sex.


There is a lot of blood and boobs but little substance but who cares? We came to see blood. Fran and the younger Miriam live on a classic and magnificent estate and not only live together, but also share men and women equally. Ted who had had sex with Fran in the woods had no idea that he was going to become a sex slave. The main element next to the vampirism is the homoeroticism of the two main characters.

I am a sucker for vampire movies and perhaps that makes me more critical. The film opens with nudity and a lesbian sex scene and there is a lot of nudity throughout the film. I knew I wanted to like this movie and that is why I am so critical of it. It is quite a fascinating film to look at and its visuals are very, very good.

“MY WAY”— A Rockumentary



A Rockumentary

Amos Lassen

“My Way” is a film about a very good performer, Rebekah Starr. Starr left her life in Pennsylvania to travel to Los Angeles in the hope of making a video that would jump start her career into something more but this fractures her broken marriage. Rebekah was a disillusioned business executive who ditched her boring life in Kittanning, Pennsylvania for an adventure with her best friend Annika.


The duo, who are real life musicians have an all-girl rock band, The Rebekah Starr Band. Rebekah is the front woman who can certainly handle a guitar while Annika is a tambourine player originally from Estonia: both are ready for an adventure. They set their sights on Los Angeles, CA and plan to shoot a new music video on the seedy Sunset Strip.

Rebekah hoped that she made the right decision and she understandably doubts herself several times especially as she has left behind her husband Mike and a steady job to follow her dream. Naturally, the two women had setbacks along the way and faced criticism for their behavior.  But they were determined and survived their road trip by promoting their music in towns, flogging CDs and performing impromptu rock songs. Their talent and likable personalities brought them new fans along the way.

“My Way” works very well on many different levels. It is produced and directed by Vinny Sisson and Dominique Mollee and has some very funny footage and an original soundtrack.


Even though Rebekah’s marriage is failing, this is not some alternate fantasy life she’s escaping to–it’s her burning passion for music that can no longer be suppressed. Bonus features include:

Exclusive Interview with Rikki Rockett (POISON)

Exclusive Interview with Steven Adler (GUNS N’ ROSES)

Exclusive Interview with Chip Z’Nuff (ENUFF Z’NUFF)

Music Video – The Rebekah Starr Band’s ‘Irrational Boy’ featuring Ron Jeremy

Music Video – The Rebekah Starr Band’s ‘My Way’

Theatrical Trailer

Optional Subtitles in Spanish and Italian

“Tupelo” by Alec Clayton— From Beyond the Grave


Clayton, Alec. “Tupelo”, CreateSpace, 2016.

From Beyond the Grave

Amos Lassen

Kevin Lumpkin tells his story from beyond the grave. He was the younger of a set of identical twins in Tupelo, Mississippi at a time that this country was going through great change. The Civil Rights movement was gaining momentum in the south and history tells us about sit-ins, demonstrations and marches in places where these had never happened before.

Kevin was born in 1943 on the very night that his father’s hardware store was burned down and he and his twin brother as children of privilege. The 1950s were characterized by football games, rock and roll and the carefree days of high school. While it was a great time for white Americans, it was difficult for blacks. Kevin learns that he and his family and others lived in a different world than did the blacks who lived only a block away. “The Alley” as it was known was where poor black families lived and struggled and whereas the whites in town were very aware of it, those who lived there were invisible. Kevin, however, fell in love with Maddie Jean from the Alley and they both knew that they could never be together.

Kevin watches the way others react to the civil rights movement. It was the time that James Meredith became the person to integrate Ole Miss and destroy the barrier against black students at the state university. Back home in Tupelo a young black man from the Alley was accused of rape and murder.

He watches in confusion as his white friends react to the growing civil rights movement, in horror as they riot on campus at nearby Ole Miss when James Meredith breaks the color barrier at the university, and he witnesses the trial of another child of The Alley who is falsely accused of rape and murder.

I grew up at the same time as Kevin (in New Orleans) and I had tucked so much of this in the back of my mind. Reading this brought everything back. Alec Clayton reminds us of how it was and we see that in Tupelo in northern Mississippi, it was bad (and still is).

Alec Clayton does not tell his story out of anger, rather he reflects on how it was and we should never forget how it was. Kevin, along with his twin Evan was raised by good parents. One of things that Clayton does so well is draw characters that are very real thus allowing us to identify with them. The parents would not let racism or bigotry come into the family even though the rest of the neighborhood sees and even practices racism.

Josh Culpepper is the district attorney of Tupelo and he is the nastiest of men. We have all known someone like him, a person who has never done anything good. He got great pleasure out of teasing and terrorizing Kevin and Evan who happen to be strong and never give in.

You may wonder what could possibly be new in this story. Historically we have heard the facts over and over— what is new is Clayton’s way of telling the story. He story he tells is powerful and important in that we should never have to see a time like this again.