Magic City: the novel is a work of historical fiction set in 1920s Tulsa, OK aka the Magic City due
to its beauty and prosperity from the booming successes of the surrounding oil fields.
Life is good for Whites and even better for African Americans in the small all-black section, Deep Greenwood, where
black-owned banks, businesses, churches, and schools thrive for its middle-class citizens.
A segregated but peaceful coexistence is interrupted by accusation of the rape of a white woman named Mary Keane. In a classic case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, the central character
Joe Samuels, a misunderstood black son of a banker, runs for his life to the bosom of Greenwood. The townsfolk rally to defend their native son much to the dismay of the bigoted deputies and mayor of
In some respects, the theme echoed
those in the movie Rosewood. Only this time, the author lightens the story adding
depth and dimension to Mary and Joe. Joe's fascination with his idols Harry Houdini
and his older brother, Harry, adds an element of fantasy that reveals inner conflicts, family secrets, and other aspects of
self discovery and healing for the character. The author shows us Mary's world
and Rhodes writing style actually allows us to feel for both characters that are caught in a downward spiral of cataclysmic
events. The supporting cast of characters adds to the story appropriately without
overwhelming the main characters. She uses their voices to share the history
of how blacks migrated to the area after the Civil War. She conveys the frustration and disappointment that the African Americans
soldiers experienced when returning home from WWI. And she paints an adequate
picture of the organized, systematic destruction of Greenwood to intentionally disenfranchise and humiliate its black citizens.
The reader also lifts from the pages the resolve and determination of an oppressed people--people who were tired of being
treated as second class citizens, people who had fought for freedom overseas only to be denied it at home, people who sought
justice and equality, and people who were willing to die to obtain it.
This was an easy read; the novel moves well and quickly.
I was a little disappointed in the ending, but Rhodes allows the reader to fill in the blanks on their own volition
by citing fictional resources in the Author's Notes to allow the readers to follow-up if desired.
Nubian Circle Book Club Rating: 4 Stars