Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: race and racism, death, gentrification, poverty.
Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
My IRL friend Amber from The Pedestrian Equestrian mentioned this book to me a few months ago, and I lucked out on finding the audiobook via Hoopla. Narrated by Allyson Johnson, whose voice gave life to main character Loraylee (Low-Ray-Lee), the audio easily captured my imagination.
In alternating past and present narratives, Loraylee Hawkins shares about her life in small town Brooklyn, NC in the 1960’s. She reminisces on her past growing up in the “separate but equal” segregated town, where she fell in love with a white man named Albert and raised his child, and the tribulations that followed the relationship. Then she moves back into the present, in which the gentrification is about to commence on Brooklyn because the current area was “dilapidated and dangerous.”
Woven into Loraylee’s tale is Pastor Polk, whose church is being relocated to a more “suitable” destination outside the town limits. This historical church is home to over 150 year old graves, yet these resting grounds must be moved too. Uncertain about what this will mean for the families of his congregation, yet forced to be a silent observer of the demolition of his town, Pastor Polk can only hope to preserve the source of community for the parishioners.
This historical fiction novel gives the reader the ability to see through the eyes of those who lost their homes and community as it was pulled out from under them. The novel touches on the sensitive but current issues of racism and white privilege by looking to the past and the actions that caused the cracks in America’s foundation. In the novel, Mayhew describes what it was like to be forced out of home, or to watch others be forced out, because of the crooked systems that controlled (and still do) everything. The Jim Crow laws may have overturned, but predominately white government officials and their underling supporters resisted the change- and in doing so, made decisions based on their personal interests, not the best interest of those involved.
This is why, when I googled “Brooklyn, North Carolina”, there is very little on it’s historical connection to the gentrification of the now Glenwood district of Raleigh, NC. I did manage to find this excellent article that pulls the skeletons out of Glenwood’s closet, and applaud both it’s author and Mayhew to sharing the truth about it’s past.
Though the subject of the novel is bleak, the information given and feelings evoked by Mayhew’s characters makes it a must-read. I personally enjoyed Loraylee’s character development and her keen observations, and was intrigued by her life. I’ll be recommending this one to my bookish, progressive friends who can truly appreciate Mayhew’s sentiments, and sincerely thank Amber for the OG recommendation.
TL/DR: Tomorrow’s bread is a Jim Crow- era novel about the gentrification of Brooklyn, North Carolina. The novel follows main character Loraylee Hawkins and the effect of the gentrification and racism on her life.
Read it? Yes, but know it’s not a light-hearted read, and contains controversial content that is still relevant today.
Recommend it? Yes, but to mature audiences.
Buy it? I would say borrow it first, and if you like it then buy it.
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