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Crossing the Lines
David C. Cook / 2009 / Paperback
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The civil rights movement is gaining ground when reporter Jack Hall investigates a bus boycott in Montgomery. His meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., transforms him into a defender of the cause. His wife disagrees, especially when the conflict threatens the lives of Jack and his son. Will the collision between black and white destroy his family? 304 pages, softcover from Cook.
After 25 years in advertising, Richard Doster, editor of byFaith, a publication of the Presbyterian Church, brings his rich Mississippi upbringing to the written page. He currently lives in Atlanta with his wife Sally, and while he's been published by the Atlanta Constitution Journal, this is his first novel.
Richard Dosters new book Crossing the Lines explores the intricacies of racial tension, family love, and community bonds through one mans experiences during major events in the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 60s. Following Safe at Home, the first of the series, Dosters new novel follows Jack Hall as his family moves to Atlanta after he gets a job at a large newspaper and begins covering news on the Civil Rights movement. Jack befriends Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, witnesses the Little Rock Nine incident, and sees his son participate in a violent sit-in in Nashville, Tennessee. Through everything, each member of the family must make his or her own decision regarding race. Could this be enough to separate this seemingly tight-knit family?
Doster wondrously weaves fiction and history. While some characters are developed more fully than others, the interactions between them prove to be credible and emotionally moving. I was especially struck by the way Doster clearly provided insight into the mindset that we might immediately say is unethical, such as the people of the South who were completely against integration in any form.
Crossing the Lines cleverly introduces Jack, Rose, and Chris as they move past their own family crisis involving race (covered in the first book) and move to a new town, with the intention of starting afresh. As Jack, a newspaperman, starts his new job in the big city, the family begins to make connections in their community. As they avoid letting their new friends know their background involving the race issue, Jack seems to be unable to evade the issues themselves. Jack and his family must decide where they stand on this touchy subject and just how much their family must change in relation to the New South that is coming on the horizon, welcome or not.
Jack is a complex character while still being relatable as he interacts with the world through sports, literature, and social change. He cares for his family and loves his job, trying to keep a balance in the shifting culture of the United States in the late 1950s. The healthy marriage displayed by Jack and Rose is put to the test when their son, Chris, begins to change from boy to man and make decisions for himself, decisions that strain the once-strong mother-son relationship. Doster explores the similarities and differences between the young pastor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the pastor at the Hall familys new church. As a loving community reaches out to the Hall family, Jack makes connections that help him reach goals of which he could have never dreamt.
This book, though having a rather abrupt and slightly jolting ending, is generally well-crafted and explores some deep human emotion, especially involving family ties and race. Some cursing is used, although not excessively. While key Christian concepts such as salvation and forgiveness are not directly addressed, the major themes involve loving and accepting different cultures and working together to make the world a better place for the Lords justice. I would recommend this book to those who are enjoy learning about the Civil Rights Movement and who might appreciate a different view of it. Rachelle Bontreger, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
Author: Richard Doster
Located in: Atlanta, GA
Submitted: September 02, 2009
Tell us a little about yourself. Richard Doster is the editor of byFaith, the magazine of the Presbyterian Church in America. He is also the author of two novels, "Safe at Home" and "Crossing the Lines", both published by David C. Cook Publishers.
What was your motivation behind this project? I wanted to talk about the time when the country was fundamentally changedwhen we saw righteousness confront eviland righteousness won. It was a time when the courage of humble, anonymous, and powerless people overcame the self-interest of entrenched power. And it was the era when our understanding of justice was challenged and redefined. In the Gettysburg address Abraham Lincoln talked about a new birth of freedom. In many respects the Civil Rights era was, for people of every color, exactly that.
What do you hope folks will gain from this project? I always want people to walk away with an enjoyable reading experience. I want them to be delighted with the language; with its power to draw us into a story and stir our emotions. Beyond that, I hope readers come away admiring the courage of Martin Luther King, Ralph Abernathy, John Lewis, Diane Nash and hundreds of others who were responsible for the Civil Rights Movement. And I hope they come away inspiredeager to create in their own neighborhoods and cities, with whatever tools are at handsomething that comes close to the biblical ideal of the beloved community.
How were you personally impacted by working on this project? I came away from the project with enormous gratitude for the way Martin Luther King changed the hearts of Americas white population. Most people, I suspect, think of the movement as being about rights for black people. I was surprised to learn that it was, from the very beginning, about justice for everyone. Kings concern was for a society in which every human could flourish. He recognized, in a thoroughly biblical way, the need for cross-cultural fellowship, and he recognized that whites were just as impoverished as blacks by a segregated society. Theres a point in the story where King explains that hes not interested in ending segregation. The goal, he says, is integrationthe creation of a beloved community of all Gods children. Toward the end of the book we see that jailed black protesters refuse to pay bail. Diane Nash, a black leader, explains that their goal wasnt to get out of jail; it was to transform society. To pay bail, she pointed out, would be to participate in, and thereby perpetuate, an inherently evil system. Here again, the objective was to create a righteous society for all. There was something Christ-like about the whole campaign. These people suffered on behalf of those who persecuted them. They were beaten, arrested, and verbally abused for the sake of their enemies.
Who are your influences, sources of inspiration or favorite authors / artists? My philosophical influences would include Walker Percy, Wendell Berry, Dorothy Sayers, and Flannery O'Connor. Stylistically, I'm a big fan of Pat Conroy, Willie Morris, and Barbara Kingsolver.
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