Rules of ’48 / Jack Cady

This novel began as a memoir, and then transitioned to a novel to better drive home the author’s intended message.  It is a story set in the summer of 1948 in Louisville, a working-class city south of the Mason-Dixon line.  Cady does a masterful job of recreating what the city felt and looked like sixty-five years ago.  The focus is on the racial tensions between whites and blacks following the Second World War, as well as between Christian and Jews.  It is a time when the nation’s blacks are beginning to demand an end to their second-class status and Jewish Americans are coming to terms with the recent German Holocaust.  The author presents a semi-autobiographical examination of what happened on a smaller stage in his hometown during this turning point of social activism on the part of the country’s minority populations.  Unfortunately, this blending of memoir and novel does not combine well on the page.  The two fail to fuse into a whole.  Taken separately, each has much to recommend it.  The story accurately captures, in personal terms, the racial tensions of the time.  It also vividly brings to life the sweaty reality of Louisville in the days before air conditioning  was common.  Yet Cady fails to deliver a seamless fit between the two approaches.  The result is a flawed novel that will still be appreciated by those interested in the development of the American conscience following World War II.

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