Eloquent Books (2008 & 2010 Kindle)
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (02/10)
Diane Jones is a young African-American who is not afraid of honest work. In addition to being an honors student she has always held some kind of a job, and when an opportunity presents itself for a better paid and more pleasant job as a nanny to the Shaw’s, a white family, she accepts it gladly. She quickly bonds with the three children, even the rather difficult eight-year old Chad. Chad is Mrs. Shaw’s son from a previous marriage and he feels less loved than his siblings, so he often acts up. Diane manages to convince him that he is wrong, so unlike her predecessors she becomes a permanent and cherished part of the family. When Mr. Shaw’s oldest son, David, visits his dad for the summer, he develops strong feelings for Diane. Although reluctant, knowing all too well that an interracial relationship is not an easy thing in the turbulent 70s, Diane finds herself attracted to David and they become lovers.
Will the young couple be able to face the adversity? Will their families accept partners of different colors or will their love fizzle out?
Alma Hudson’s “Checkered Fences” addresses one of the biggest and unfortunately still very much present problems in our country – racism. While huge strides have been made since the time in which the story is set, namely the turbulent seventies, the scene of David and Diane’s restaurant visit brought back many unpleasant memories of much more recent times. Being part of an interracial couple is still not the most fun in the world even as recently as in 2010, and my husband and I have encountered similar situations all too often in the past, therefore I could really relate to this part of the story. That’s also the main reason for which I wanted to congratulate Ms. Hudson for writing a brave and outspoken book. Unfortunately, there were many factors distracting from the story itself, most notably extremely poor spelling and punctuation, as well as not very convincingly developed characters. There was a lot of telling and not enough showing, and some of the events described just did not sound believable to me. Let me cite just two examples: Diane professes to be a “good” girl and a “militant” – yet she ends up in David’s bed without any real resistance and without any assurance that she is not just being exploited for a bit of fun. Also, Diane’s father, who has extremely old-fashioned ideas, and whose temper is extraordinarily violent, accepts David without a slightest hesitation or argument.
I felt that Ms. Hudson was delivering a very worthy message in “Checkered Fences,” but 87 pages seem to be slightly short for a novel trying to address such complex issues. Enlisting some professional help, such as an editor, would be greatly helpful for the overall quality and readability of any future works. I would like to encourage the author to write more, but also to pay more attention to detail.