Barefoot
by Arlene Fisher Hann


"I jumped up and glared at Aunt Ginger, 'That’s the most shameful thing I’ve ever heard in my whole life. Shame on you people.'"

Drawing on memories from her childhood, Hann has crafted a story of resolve and perseverance in the face of hardship. This Depression Era tale of one family’s struggles is filled with the bonds that unite individuals even in the most difficult of times. The story and its narrator may put one in mind of To Kill A Mockingbird, as that classic and this novel mine a similar vein of growth and learning delivered by a young, female storyteller.

Zemma is a twelve-year-old recounting her family’s move from Texas to Mississippi. The journey itself is filled with memorable moments, such as a chance encounter with a man they later find to be one of the time’s most notorious gangsters. Upon arrival, the narrative takes on an episodic approach as Zemma grows in understanding via events that surround her. She is introduced to the dreadfulness of institutionalized racism. She experiences poverty, hurricanes, tornadoes, the death of a cherished family member, and more. But through it all her indomitable spirit perseveres. There is a killer on the loose fomenting fear and dread, but even that doesn’t stop Zemma and her loved ones from living their lives as they feel they should.

Hann writes with energy and verve. She captures the emotions of an adolescent responding to life lessons as a youngster truly does. Her dialogue reflects the regional colloquial speech of the times. The pace is steady, if not swift, and tenses occasionally clash, yet sincerity in her story and characters remains paramount—painting an honest picture of the people and times portrayed.

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