Reviews by: Kirkus, Feathered Quill, Miss Lynn Brooks, Cyrus Webb
BRIDGE OF THE SINGLE HAIR
In Pugh’s debut novel, a young woman from California joins the Freedom Riders in 1961, gets arrested and jailed in Mississippi, and learns that not everyone appreciates a hero.
Jeri Turner is a 17-year-old spitfire who lives with her cantankerous grandmother in Los Angeles in the early ’60s. As the Civil Rights movement sweeps the country, Jeri volunteers with the Congress of Racial Equality to fight segregation in the South via nonviolent protests. Upon arriving at the bus depot in Jackson, Miss., her group is assaulted, arrested and sent to Parchman Farm, the maximum-security unit of Mississippi’s State Prison. There, through her cell’s air vent, Jeri meets black inmate Ellis Lee. Their brief interactions impel Jeri to skirt big-picture racism and focus on helping Lee—a cause that she is convinced deserves attention, but one that proves disappointingly futile. Pugh’s evocative novel effectively encapsulates the physical and emotional volatility of the Civil Rights era. A former Freedom Rider, the author illustrates the frustration, anger, fear and idealism of youth in her spirited, sharp-tongued protagonist. Pugh writes without sentiment, yet her honest dialogue and insightful descriptions of people and places evoke the visceral sting of injustice. Her ability to create and hold tension is a consistent strength in this novel, and the novel’s tension parallels the tension generated during that era. Pugh also balances the external turbulence with inter-movement politics and personalities. Each character has his or her personal motivations for joining CORE, the validity of which are questioned and judged as much as any criminal’s—black or white. The result is a multilayered story that shows how prejudice and condemnation exist on many levels, across generations, races, genders and states.
A sharp coming-of-age story that makes history come alive.
This powerful Civil Rights era novel, written by a former “Freedom Rider,” brings to life the explosive and dangerous times in the early 60s when simply sitting on a bench beneath a sign that read “Whites Only” could get a person with dark skin arrested and tossed in jail.
Jeri Turner is a young white woman, living a relatively uncomplicated life in Los Angles in 1961. After attending a march for justice, she goes to the Sixth Street AME Zion Church to hear people talk about the marches and the injustices that must be stopped. It isn’t long before Jeri decides she wants to leave, but she’s stuck in the middle of a cramped pew. As one of the few white people attending the inspirational meeting, she’s too embarrassed to get up and walk out so she decides to stay. But when Dasante Mitchell gets up to talk, Jeri is moved by his descriptions of life in Monroe, NC. Boldly deciding the join the Freedom Riders and travel to the South to non-violently protest racial segregation, it isn’t long before Jeri is arrested and thrown into the Mississippi State Prison.
While in prison, Jeri experiences much of the cruelty and harsh treatment that others have only read about. She also befriends a male inmate by the name of Ellis Lee, by talking to him through the toilet vent. While Ellis is not a talkative man, Jeri comes to enjoy their brief conversations and is curious to learn as much as she can about this inmate who lives on the other side of her prison wall.
Through time, Jeri learns that Ellis is illiterate, enjoys getting food from his sister when she visits and has experienced at least one beating at the hands of the night Captain. He is also just 23 and sitting on death row. Could Ellis be one of so many Black man convicted of a crime he didn’t commit?
Jeri is eventually released from prison and promises Ellis to help him find a new lawyer and get his conviction overturned. But when she can’t find out what he was convicted of, and that the NAACP won’t help her with his case, she knows something more is at play. Is there a cover-up? And how can she keep her promise to Ellis?
Bridge of the Single Hair is an utterly mesmerizing story that I was unable to stop reading (indeed, I was late for an appointment because I had to finish this book!). The author has an amazing way of engaging the reader and bringing her into the life of Jeri. I felt as if I was there in Parchman Farm (the section of the prison where Jeri was kept) and needed to solve the mystery of Ellis’ case along with her. The horrible treatment she received at the hands of her Southern jailers, as well as the daily injustices served to Blacks both inside the prison as well as on the streets, brought home all the injustices of the Civil Rights era.
Quill says: Do NOT miss this book – you won’t be disappointed!
Bridge of a Single Hair is a story that takes place during the 1960’s, back when the Civil Rights movement was going strong. The older generation will remember back at that time the Freedom riders, who set out for the deep south only to be met up with hatred and violence. With their efforts, the civil rights movement was transformed. This then is what this book captures.
Seventeen year old Jeri Turner who lives in Los Angeles in the early 60’s she was right in the time span of the Civil Rights movement that was sweeping the country. Leaving home she joins up with the freedom riders to fight the segregation going on in the southern states. Being involved in Non Violent protest Jeri fights for the right of others and finds herself locked up in maximum security unit of the Mississippi State Prison. Here through the air vent, Jeri listens to the voice of one prisoner, a black inmate. Upon release Jeri risks her own life to uncover the truth of this prisoner.
In her debut novel Candida Pugh, who is a former freedom rider and was arrested in Mississippi in 1961 and put in the maximum security prison tells it like it was. For those of us that lived in the era and especially the deep south understand what went on, with the prejudice and the hatred which spanned much of the United States which in a way is still prevalent today just not as strong as the 60’s movement. The author writes with a candid no holds barred novel that takes the reader back to the conditions and struggles that were at their height during that time.
Excellent book for those who remember that time and for the younger generation to learn about a time in the history that they have only heard pieces about.
For many of us there is no true sign of what we are able to accomplish until we have been tested and that strength is able to show itself and flex its muscles. This is what we see in Candida Pugh’s BRIDGE OF THE SINGLE HAIR.
We are taken into the very real fight against racism and segregation and introduced to the feisty yet determined Jeri Turner. Through her fight against injustice and those who she is joined with along the way, we are able to see exactly what was accomplished in America some short 40 or so years ago. No matter what she was faced with, Jeri remained focused on her goal of equality for all, even when it seemed as though those with the power and the authority to block her were sure to prevail.
A novel that takes historical references and events and mixes in strong characters and life lessons, BRIDGE OF THE SINGLE HAIR shows that in the end it is not race or circumstances that divide us but the ability of those to fight for what they know is right instead of standing idly by on the sidelines.
This is a book that should be read and shared by people all over the world that want to be reminded of exactly what so many went through in order for us to have the privileges that made the election of America’s 44th President even possible. Using pieces of the world she got to know firsthand and her creative license and skills, Pugh had given the world something that will withstand the test of time and be recognized for what it is: a literary treasure sure to entertain and inspire.