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The Resource Writing to save a life : the Louis Till file, John Edgar Wideman

Writing to save a life : the Louis Till file, John Edgar Wideman

Label
Writing to save a life : the Louis Till file
Title
Writing to save a life
Title remainder
the Louis Till file
Statement of responsibility
John Edgar Wideman
Creator
Author
Subject
Genre
Language
eng
Storyline
Tone
Review
  • Of 96 servicemen executed by the U.S. military during World War II, 83 were African-American—one of whom was Louis Till, hanged on July 2, 1945, for rape and murder. He was the father of 14-year-old Emmett Till, who was brutally murdered in 1955. Louis’s confidential military service record was made available to serve the defense of Emmett’s murderers. In establishing the junction between these two deaths, Wideman (Brothers and Keepers) employs a montage of multiple narrative voices, some first person, some through an omniscient author; “I assume,” he writes, “the risk of allowing my fiction to enter people’s true stories.” Loosely moored by his diligent pursuit of relevant documents, his reportage and recollection alternate and merge with hypothetical encounters with Emmett’s mother and Wideman’s own father, an account of a family Thanksgiving dinner, excerpts of trial records, memories of Wideman’s first girlfriend, and 
			mentions of Wideman’s son, who is imprisoned for murder. An overriding theme connects it all: the way that America’s criminal justice system 
			historically and currently harms African-Americans. “Whether or not Till breaks the law,” Wideman argues, “his existence is viewed by the law as a problem.” Wideman’s experimental narrative ultimately leaves the reader adrift, though aware that a valuable record is buried in there somewhere. (Nov.)
			 --Staff (Reviewed 08/22/2016) (Publishers Weekly, vol 263, issue 34, p)
  • /* Starred Review */ In 1955, Emmett Till, an African American teenager visiting relatives in Mississippi, was killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman. National Book Award finalist Wideman (Brothers and Keepers) intended to produce a fictional work on the case. Instead, after inspiration from Alice Kaplan's The Interpreter and a review of trial testimony, the book became both more personal and factual as he reflected on the death of Emmett's father, Louis. Their cases became intimately linked when a press leak indicated that Louis had been hanged by the U.S. Army in 1945 following a rape/murder. The author obtained Louis's army case file and convincingly analyzes its circumstantial and prejudicial outcome. He admits to the use of writer's "license" in telling the Till family story. This decision enhances the narrative flow and was probably a necessary choice given the social factors which shaped the "truth" of that era. Combining elements of original research, memoir, and informed imagination, this moving account provides a poetic but dark vision of racial injustice passed from father to son. VERDICT Recommended for readers seeking a deeper understanding of the historical background of social movements such as Black Lives Matter. [See Prepub Alert, 5/2/16.] --Antoinette Brinkman (Reviewed 10/15/2016) (Library Journal, vol 141, issue 17, p100)
  • The present illuminates the past—but can’t provide resolution—in this generation-spanning meditation on injustice.Wideman (God’s Gym, 2005, etc.) initially conducted his research to inform some fiction focusing on Emmitt Till, the 14-year-old boy who was kidnapped and murdered in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman. “Though today Emmett Till is generally viewed as a civil rights martyr,” writes the renowned author, “the shabby trial that exonerated his killers, and the crucial role played by Till’s father in the trial have largely disappeared from the public’s imagination.” It is the life and death of father Louis Till that obsesses Wideman, in a manner that blurs the distinction between fiction and nonfiction. During World War II, Louis was executed for rape and murder in Italy, a case based on another black soldier’s turning informant to escape prosecution and on shaky testimony from Italian women. Even after Emmitt’s accused murderers were acquitted, there had been the opportunity to try them on the charge of kidnapping, until a supposedly confidential file on the hanging of Louis became public knowledge: “With this information about Emmitt Till’s father in hand, the Mississippi grand jury declined to indict…for kidnapping.” There are many layers of meaning in this book, especially regarding the identification of Wideman with Emmitt, both of them 14 when the author saw a photo of the dead boy’s battered face, and the narrative expands into a meditation on black fathers and sons, the divide and the bonds, the genetic inheritance within a racist society. The author also explores the relationship between truth and fiction, since he believes the case against Louis can be read as fiction, and he composes his own fictions to counter it. He suggests that Louis was mainly guilty “of being the wrong color in the wrong place at the wrong time” while admitting that he has no more proof than military officials did. A book seething with the passion and sense of outrage behind the Black Lives Matter movement that also traces specific roots of the movement’s genealogy.(Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2016)
Biography type
individual biography
http://library.link/vocab/ext/novelist/bookUI
10540011
Cataloging source
DLC
http://library.link/vocab/creatorName
Wideman, John Edgar
Dewey number
  • 364.152/3092
  • B
Index
no index present
LC call number
D810.N4
LC item number
W49 2016
Literary form
non fiction
http://library.link/vocab/resourcePreferred
True
http://library.link/vocab/subjectName
  • Till, Emmett
  • Wideman, John Edgar
  • United States
  • Till, Louis
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • African American soldiers
  • War crimes
  • War crimes
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • African American men
http://bibfra.me/vocab/lite/titleRemainder
the Louis Till file
Label
Writing to save a life : the Louis Till file, John Edgar Wideman
Instantiates
Publication
Carrier category
volume
Carrier category code
  • nc
Carrier MARC source
rdacarrier
Content category
text
Content type code
  • txt
Content type MARC source
rdacontent
Contents
Louis Till -- The file -- Graves
Control code
1650814
Dimensions
22 cm
Edition
First Scribner hardcover edition.
Extent
193 pages
Isbn
9781501147289
Isbn Type
(hardcover)
Lccn
2016015604
Media category
unmediated
Media MARC source
rdamedia
Media type code
  • n
System control number
  • (Sirsi) i9781501147289
  • (OCoLC)944380559
Label
Writing to save a life : the Louis Till file, John Edgar Wideman
Publication
Carrier category
volume
Carrier category code
  • nc
Carrier MARC source
rdacarrier
Content category
text
Content type code
  • txt
Content type MARC source
rdacontent
Contents
Louis Till -- The file -- Graves
Control code
1650814
Dimensions
22 cm
Edition
First Scribner hardcover edition.
Extent
193 pages
Isbn
9781501147289
Isbn Type
(hardcover)
Lccn
2016015604
Media category
unmediated
Media MARC source
rdamedia
Media type code
  • n
System control number
  • (Sirsi) i9781501147289
  • (OCoLC)944380559

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