American Blues by Polly Hamilton Hilsabeck

"Historical Fiction" genre card with glasses and book photo
Book Genre Block - "General Fiction" Person holding book

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This is such an impactful story that I hope many people will read. It brings the terrible lynching of a black man in the 1970’s to the pages in a way that involves the reader in the story. Alongside this murder is the story of a woman in a man’s world, studying theology to become ordained in the Episcopal church. I felt like I was right in the pages of this story thanks to amazing writing by author Polly Hamilton Hilsabeck.

I really enjoyed the historical perspective as well as the current-day view. There is a lot of parallels that are sad to see considering the span of time between the two. I thought this was a great story focusing on race, but also bringing gender into the discussion. This is one that will continue to stick with me!

Where to Find This Book:

Amazon ~ Goodreads

A week after Easter 1973—following the lynching of Black church sexton Sam Jefferson—Lily Vida Wallace is dropped like an immigrant into Greenville, South Carolina. After returning home to Manhattan, Lily continues theological studies in anticipation of the overturn of a centuries-old, males-only priesthood and simultaneously struggles with her erratic engagement. When her fiancé flees following discovery of professional impropriety and Atlanta attorney Rodney Davis lands in her path, a new love grows—accelerating Lily’s understanding even as it challenges her naïveté about race.

Some two decades later, high-profile interracial nuptials in Oakland, California, become the occasion for a reunion between the now Reverend Vida and Lucius Clay, the fiery journalist she met in South Carolina. Within weeks of their re-meeting, Lucius is dispatched to cover Black church burnings—beginning with Lily’s hometown in Texas.

Writer Hilton Als recently commented: “We need to wake up to the fact that America is not one story. It is many, many, many stories.” American Blues offers no neat resolution. Instead, its timely story invites, as it tangles with, readers’ own assumptions and complex experiences of race and gender in America.

Just the Facts:

American Blues by Polly Hamilton Hilsabeck
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: She Writes Press
Pub Date: April 12, 2022

Polly Hamilton Hilsabeck was in the second wave of women ordained priest in the Episcopal Church in 1985 in the Diocese of Los Angeles and currently lives with her husband in Durham, North Carolina. You can find more information on her website.


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I was provided a gifted copy of this book for free. I am leaving my honest review voluntarily.

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