Arts » Written + Spoken Word

Review: Growin' Up White

Ritter book lives in '50s and '60s Indianapolis, filled with segregation.


4 stars

Everything but the title is outstanding. Growin' Up White by Dwight Ritter does not adequately represent the value to what this coming of age novel reveals. Admittedly semi-autobiographical, Ritter takes us into the world of '50s and '60s Indianapolis, as segregated as any southern community even though Indiana technically is a northern state. At the center is Georgey, a 50-year-old African-American woman with solid life values and a no-nonsense loving heart. Narrated by Ricky, the middle child in a middle class white family, the story unfolds from multiple perspectives.

Ritter sets the Stoner family in the midst of harsh issues and forces them to make choices that have far reaching implications. Ricky's mother, a concert pianist of stature, exemplifies a typical attitude, "classical pianists are the whitest people on earth," she states as an inalterable fact. She is affronted by Georgey's suggestion that she enter a Black church to accompany a Gospel singer — music completely foreign to her. Experiencing her change of attitude is one of the best parts of this book, which is full of honest dealings with long-held beliefs.

The Ku Klux Klan historically had a stronghold in Indianapolis. The depiction of Crispus Attucks' basketball team holding sway over white teams is close to historical bone, but here it is shown on a very personal scale. History has its counterpart in scarred lives and unmitigated hatred.

If you don't mind having your sensibilities rattled, read this book.


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