Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Book Review: 'Living in the Middle' by A. Robert Allen

Living in the Middle by A. Robert Allen
‘Am I the oversized mongrel?’

Anthony Robert Allen continues this series SLAVERY AND BEYOND with this fourth installment LIVING IN THE MIDDLE. The New York City made his literary debut with an exceptionally fine novel – FAILED MOMENTS, Book 1 of the SLAVERY AND BEYOND series - that is based on the `what if’ concept - having the possibility to correct wrongs or change life by going back in time and doing things differently. The story is solid, the writing excellent (Allen is a college administrator!) and the novel is labeled `historical fiction'. Having read and enjoyed his books, this reviewer looked for more information about the genesis of the novel: `My goal was to present a family history book to my immediate family as a present for Christmas in 2013. I hired genealogists in the U.S., Ireland, and the Caribbean. As the story started to come together, I uncovered some interesting things in terms of ethnicity and religion. My Irish ancestry can be traced back to the late 1700s in Ireland. Each of my Irish family lines stayed throughout the Great Famine in the 1840s, but then left for the United States over the next 20-30 years. Some of my ancestors went to Chicago, which had a tremendous Irish population, and they were in the city during the Great Chicago fire of 1871. Others went to New York around the time of the Draft Riots in 1863, which pitted the Irish against the blacks. My Irish line has been consistently Catholic over the years. While the Irish side didn't offer so many surprises, my “other side” did. I have one line of Sephardic Jews that I can trace back to Portugal in the 1500s. This branch of the family owned slaves in St. Domingue (modern-day Haiti) just before the slave revolution, eventually intermarried with a mulatto line of former slaves, and became Anglican from that point forward. I have another branch of my family tree that I can trace back to the marriage of a white planter to a free woman of color on the island of Nevis in the Caribbean in the early 1800s. This line was also Protestant. Life, of course, is so much more than ethnicity and religion, and the stories I uncovered--which are very well-documented --are much more sensational than ordinary. My family has been both poor and wealthy and no stranger to scandal. Some of the more colorful characters include disbarred lawyers, promiscuous husbands, bootleggers, numbers runners, scammers, politicians, and athletes.'

Given that exhaustive research and discovery of the complexities of time and change and mutations of thought and lines to which we all are inherent, Allen has created a condensation of all this in this brief but involving and poignant fourth novel LIVING IN THE MIDDLE. His synopsis serves the book well: ‘Rejected by his race. Hunted by the Klan. Yet, standing up to hatred is what he's compelled to do. New York, Early 1900s: Jimmy Montgomery comes from old New York money and grows up among the Manhattan elite. At the age of eighteen, Jimmy discovers he’s been living a lie. He follows his roots back to Tulsa, Oklahoma to answer the burning questions in his life. Who is he? What is he? Where does he belong? He finds love and friendship along the way, but full acceptance from either the White or the Black world eludes him. When trouble pits the White population of Tulsa against the Black community of Greenwood, Jimmy must finally make a choice – he can no longer live in the middle. His decision will alter the course of his life and those he’d come to love. What will he decide?’

Reading the four books of this series SLAVERY AND BEYOND is the privilege to reminisce about our own ancestry and despite all the current banter about immigration reform; we in America are all immigrants. Allen takes us through that discovery and in doing so has provided a very fine novel. Highly Recommended. 


Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.




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Two kings. Two princes. One queen. The true story of five aristocrats separated by time, culture, and circumstance -- all of them bound to the United States by accidents of history and left to hope for a tomorrow better than today. Prepare for a vision of the American Dream as few others have ever seen it.