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Bobbie doesn’t believe the southern attitude toward people of color applies to her northern world. Phillis lived in Mississippi and endured the worst effects of racial hatred, generating a mind filled with fear, distrust, and bitterness. Friends when they were five years old, the two reunite in a late 1950s Long Island high school and find that an interracial friendship is not as easy as it was when they were unaware toddlers. Phillis longs for the innocence she once had, but she must convince Bobbie to confront the reality of racism even as they fight for the right to be friends.
With humor and drama, Phillis, Bobbie, and a diverse group of teenagers wage battle to change their corner of the world. At first they succeed. They share high school highs and lows and first romances: Phillis with Leonard and Bobbie with Frank.
Outside influences interfere and the girls end up facing the obstacles Phillis foresaw and Bobbie never expected, from hateful words, to vandalism, to outright violence. Their lives collapse when officials accuse Phillis of arson, a riot ensues, and police arrive, guns drawn. The two girls and their friends must bind together in an intricate plot to trap the true culprits and clear Phillis’s name before she faces undeserved years in prison.
1950s teenagers are often called the “do-nothing” generation. Consumed by their cars, poodle skirts, and dance parties, they appear to be an unconcerned lot. However, their seemingly nonchalant, selfish lives had more to do with lack of awareness than lack of caring. Many, when confronted with the truth about racial inequality, became activists in civil rights issues—sometimes with tragic results.
Now, in the 21st century, the struggle continues. There are parallels between the underground racism in 1950s northeast United States and the behind-the-scenes prejudice of today. It was there then; it is here now. We can’t fight it if we don’t own it and accept that it exists.