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A emews^L Jiti The Temple Bombing by Melissa Fay Greene Addison Wesley, 1996, 502 pp., $25 Greene, author of the National Book Award finalist Praying for Sheetrock, has won the National Book Award for this one. In it she uses her storytelling skills to build a vivid social history and a gripping courtroom drama based on the October 12, 1958, bombing of the Temple, a prominent Atlanta synagogue. The shock wave of that explosion reverberated through the city that prided itself on being "too busy to hate," and through the assimilated Reform Jewish community, the members of which found themselves in the middle of a renewed conflict between black and white. The Temple's Rabbi Jacob Rothschild is the central figure of this engrossing narrative. It was Rothschild 's outspoken advocacy of civil rights that caused the Temple to become the focus ofan attack, allegedly by a small group of white supremacists . By weaving together her own research and interviews with people who either participated in the drama surrounding the bombing or observed it firsthand, Greene attempts to present a clearer picture than journalists and historians have previously been able to give us of this murky episode in the Civil Rights era. Even though George Bright was tried for the crime (Bright, an admitted white supremacist, belonged to the National States' Rights Party), he was acquitted, and to this day the case of the Temple bombing remains officially unsolved. Through the voices of the Atlanta power structure, the African American community, the white supremacists and the Jews, Greene recreates the turmoil and confusion surrounding the bombing. It is a drama full of flamboyant characters, but the most compelling are George Bright himself , a brilliant, paranoid and lonely individual, obsessed with conspiracy theories, and the witty, brusque Rothschild, who, Greene tells us, "aspired only to be civilized." Greene's lyrical description of the event—her own imaginative re-creation —provides a counterpoint to the more matter-of-fact voices of her informants . About the bombing itself she writes, "The brick walls flapped upwards like sheets on a line; the stairwell came unmoored and hung like a rope ladder; bronze plaques commemorating the war dead from two world wars spun out like saucers; the stained-glass windows snapped outward, like tablecloths shaken after dinner; and all was momentarily redhot , white-lit, and moving like lava." The Missouri Review · 267 Greene's book, with its focus on one of the lesser-known stories of the Civil Rights movement, offers a valuable lesson in personal and social responsibility. Through all its recounting of painful events, The Temple Bombing never lets the reader forget that history happens to real people—and that some of it happened not so terribly long ago. The Gangster ofLove by Jessica Hagedorn Houghton Mifflin, 1996, 311 pp., $22.95 Jessica Hagedorn's first novel, Dogeaters , gave readers a rare glimpse of life in the Philippines. Her new book, The Gangster of Love, concentrates on the Filipino experience in America. Largely autobiographical, The Gangster ofLove tells the story of Rocky Rivera, a teenage girl who leaves the Philippines with her mother and brother to live in the San Francisco Bay area in the early '70s. The initial chapters are mainly a coming-of-age tale, as Rocky becomes enamored with, and ultimately finds her own place within the American counterculture—all while her mother is trying to reinvent herself, as well as keep her family together in this new country. Rocky's mother, Milagros, fights to hold onto Filipino traditions while her daughter chooses a lifestyle that is decadently American. Hagedorn does not deal with this conflict simplistically , by portraying it as a mere battle. Rather, an uneasy union is formed. Rocky's influences, like Hagedorn's, are Filipino and American , and the result of this is a unique and clever narrative that ambitiously follows Rocky's life for close to twenty years. The true strength of The Gangster of Love, however, lies in its characters. Though their situations are often unusual , and the events of the story sometimes cross the line of believability (or at least reader identification), the characters themselves remain unflinchingly real. Their strengths and passions are...


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