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Novel about activist is for open discussion
BY TERR1 SCHLICHENMEYER
FOR THE CHRONICLE J
Open mouth, insert foot.
Maybe it doesn't happen often,
but there are times when you have a
knack for saying what's on your mind
at precisely the wrong time. You can't
un-say things, though, especially if
you mean them, but as you'll see in
the novel "Grant Park" by Leonard
Pitts, Jr., at least those words won't
In his heart, Malcolm Toussaint
was always an activist.
The son of a Memphis sanitary
worker, Toussaint grew up seeing the
lack of equality around him and he
understood that higher education was
a means of escape. Once at college,
he grew an Afro, wrote angry pam
phlets, and spoke his mind but,
though he wasn't alone in his radical
ism, he was expelled from white
man's school anyway.
That was February 1968; it was
cold but so was life, which Toussaint
learned the spring before he returned
to college, chastened and wiser.
Four decades later, the award
winning newspaper columnist hadn't
forgotten those days, which was why,
early one morning, he snuck into his
editor's office and quietly inserted a
rant in the paper, a column that had
? been rejected by his
superiors, a tired-of
that Toussaint knew
would kill his career.
As the paper's
editor, Bob Carson
was the first to reject
the column so it espe
cially stune that
Toussaint's action caused Bob to lose
his job, too. Being fired was a shock,
and there was more: not only was
Toussaint missing, but an old girl
friend, Bob's first love whom he had
n't seen in years, was in Chicago with
the Obama campaign and was hoping
to have lunch with Bob.
That was fine. He had nothing
else to do. Toussaint had seen to that,
For most of his life, Clarence Pym
was bullied, abused, and didn't have
many friends, but he had Dwayne and
their carefully-laid plans for
Something Big. Recently, they'd
formed the White Resistance Army,
and Dwayne said it was time for
white men to take America back. It
didn't matter who died - starting with
that black writer from the newspaper.
... that's what to keep reminding
yourself here. It's only a book which,
because you're immersed in history
and authentic events and because the
fictional parts feel natural, is easy to
forget when you're reading "Grant
And then there are those thrills -
gasping, mouth-gaping page-turners
that author Leonard Pitts Jr. weaves
through another realism: truthful,
brutal plot-lines about racial issues of
the last five decades, mulling over
exactly how far we've really come. |
That makes this will-they-live-or
won't-they nail-biter into something
that also made me think, and I
absolutely loved it ... Until three
pages from the end. There's where ?
Pitts, Jr. inserted a tiny little thread
that almost made me cry with frustra
tion and cliche-repulsion.
^1 could cry now, in fact, but
instead, I'll recommend this book
with one caveat: stop before you fin
ish it. If you can, you'll love it whole
heartedly with no disappointment. If
you absolutely must read to the end,
well, then liking "Grant Park," is for
Terri Schlichenmeyer has been
reading since she was three years old
and she never goes anywhere without
a book. She lives on a hill in
Wisconsin with two dogs and 14,000
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"Grant Park" by Leonard Pitts Jr. c. 2015 Bolden
$24.95/ higer in Canada 400 pages