Texas, 1968. Jack Long recently left his job as the race reporter in San Antonio to take a job with a similar title in Houston... but as the political and racial landscape is so very different in Houston, it may as well be a completely different job. He's trying to cover the local SNCC protests but the young members aren't particularly eager to talk to (or trust) a white reporter. When he finds himself in a precarious situation while covering a rally, protester Larry Thompson helps him out by both defusing the situation and vouching for Jack's credibility.
The Long and Thompson families begin to see each other socially, a relationship that changes their own perspectives and breaks unmarked boundaries in the community. It also has a more far-reaching effect: when five black college students are accused of murdering a white police officer, the friendship between the Longs and the Thompsons ultimately affects the verdict.
Heavily based on author Mark Long's childhood memories, The Silence of Our Friends creates a portrait of a very specific time and place, but one that is likely to resonate with a broad spectrum of readers. That's because in addition to the larger civil rights plotline, there are so many moments depicted—kids getting to know each other, parents disagreeing on parenting techniques, the moment in which you realize that a friendship is over—that we've all either experienced or witnessed.
The artwork and dialogue both contribute to the stellar characterization, and while it portrays some ugly, ugly behavior, it doesn't really comment on or demonize it. It just shows it and lets it speak for itself: ugly and hateful, sometimes habitual and often unthinking. Similarly, Jack's drinking and Julie Long's visual impairment both have an impact on daily life, but both are portrayed as a regular part of life: no one ever sits down for a Afterschool Special heart-to-heart.
What I'm trying to say, in a very round-about way, is that everything in The Silence of Our Friends—Big Moments and seemingly small ones—feels true and real, and that it's very much worth reading. And, for that matter, re-reading.
Book source: ILLed through my library.
Read for the 7th Annual 48-Hour Book Challenge.