Gouster Girl is a historical novel set on the South Side of Chicago in the early 1960s, a time of incredible racial tension in Chicago and around the country. One concern I had about the novel from early on was whether it would be of interest to people who had little knowledge or connection to Chicago.
Yesterday, I received two comments that shed light on that question. The first was a comment on Amazon from a reader who wonders about that exact question--if Gouster Girl has appeal outside of Chicago:
For me, reading this book was like meeting up with an old friend from fifty years ago. Like Jeff, the book's protagonist, I too grew up in South Shore in the 1960s and lived through the racial tensions and violence. Much of what Jeff experienced I also experienced a few years later at South Shore High School.
My experiences growing up were instrumental in shaping who I am today, and it was interesting to see my feelings corroborated in this book.
Nevertheless, I wonder whether this book will appeal to those who did not grow up in South Shore in the 1960s. Dear readers, I challenge you to find out.
So I took the challenge, or shall I say, by coincidence I received a second comment yesterday from a psychologist I know, who grew up in Pennsylvania in the 1950s and 1960s, and was captivated by Gouster Girl:
Our divisions growing up were very much related to social class - blue collar vs. white collar. But we didn't have the intense racial and religious divides you describe in Gouster Girl. For me, the story brought back some of the angst and general visceral discomfort about identity and social connections of those year and multiplied it by 100!
The intense stress and confusion and hatred described in your book is so painfully moving. Somehow the general context of the age group plus the racial and religious divides that existed — and which were actually enhanced by the government, police, cultural, real estate practices, etc.-- felt almost unbearable to me. You did a wonderful job of fostering this strong emotional experience that I had in the reading of the book.
So the initial feedback is encouraging. Gouster Girl may well have life beyond Chicago.