by David E. Gumpert
GENRE: YA, Young Adult
Gouster Girl is the coming of age, risky affair between Valerie Davis a cute black girl from the South Side of Chicago and nerdy white Jeffrey Stark.
While the two are somewhat smitten they are late to realize that falling in love on Chicago’s South Side in 1963 is a highly risky business for an interracial couple.
Opportunities arise for both of them to help one another out of tough fixes—he saves her from attack at an all-white amusement park and she saves him from injury in a racial brawl at their high school. But as their romance becomes more serious, so do the racial dangers. White police target Valerie as a prostitute and black gang members see Jeffrey as trying to sexually exploit a black girl. Seemingly inevitably, the blossoming romance collides head on with the realities of Northern-style racism one hot summer afternoon at one of Chicago’s most beautiful Lake Michigan beaches, when a racial protest turns ugly, confronting the couple with terrible choices.
EXCERPTS (Exclusive Excerpt):
“I’m Jeff,” I said. “We’re in geometry together. I was the guy fighting with Booker a couple weeks ago.”
She stared blankly, which felt strange because she nearly always had an animated expression, smiling and engaging, for everyone else. “Yeah, I remember you. You were the guy pretending you were Wyatt Earp at the OK Corral, who almost got his self killed.”
She began walking out of the classroom, not waiting for me. I immediately realized that her ignoring me over the last two weeks since the fight was no accident—she blamed me for starting the blowup.
Should I just accept the rejection, appreciate the calming of my gut, and go on my way? Another part of me rejected the option as I scampered to catch up with her. “Hey, I wanted to thank you for what you did there.”
She still had the blank look, as if she was bored, except now she was looking straight ahead, not doing me the courtesy to stop while speaking to me. “I didn’t do that to help you. I wanted to keep Booker from getting into a heap of trouble he didn’t need.”
She picked up her pace, walking faster toward the main exit to the street, clearly not desiring an extended conversation.
I decided to shift gears as I caught up with her yet again. I couldn’t believe I was pursuing her so aggressively, more aggressively than I ever had any other girl. Was I intentionally heading into forbidden territory, as I occasionally did taking bicycle rides into Negro neighborhoods with Nate and Lee?
I was just even with her in the hallway. “Say, Valerie. I have a question for you, about geometry, about the class yesterday on trapezoids. I didn’t understand the last part, about calculating the area of a trapezoid.”
She didn’t even slow down. “Why don’t you ask one of your smart friends about that?” She didn’t say, “Why don’t you ask one of your smart white friends,” but that was her clear suggestion. She peeled off without waiting for an answer, and was out the front door. There was no mention of my drawing.
David E. Gumpert grew up on the South Side of Chicago, in South Shore and Hyde Park. In the years since graduating from the University of Chicago, he has attended Columbia Journalism School and worked as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and an editor for the Harvard Business Review and Inc. magazine. He has also authored ten nonfiction books on a variety of subjects—from entrepreneurship and small business management to food politics. His most prominent titles include How to Really Create a Successful Business Plan (from Inc. Publishing); How to Really Start Your Own Business (Inc. Publishing); Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Food Rights (Chelsea Green Publishing), and The Raw Milk Answer Book (Lauson Publishing).
He spent ten years in the 1990s and early 2000s researching his family’s history during the Holocaust. The result was a book co-authored with his deceased aunt Inge Belier: Inge: A Girl’s Journey Through Nazi Europe (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing).
He spent much of the last half-dozen years going back to his own roots in Chicago to research and write the historical novel, Gouster Girl. While some of it stems from his own experiences growing up in South Shore and Hyde Park, he also conducted significant additional research to complete the book in late 2019.
GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER CODE
David E. Gumpert will be awarding a $25 gift card to Garrett Popcorn, then a Water bottle with Chicago flag for a second winner, and a Mug with Chicago flag for a third winner, all randomly drawn via rafflecopter during the tour.
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