The Tragedy of Brady Sims (Vintage Contemporaries)
by Ernest J. Gaines
Amazon rating
Critique Circle rating 
Release Date2017-08-29 (added to CC 3 Jan)
Amazon Sales Rank67,631
Ernest J. Gaines's new novella revolves around a courthouse shooting that leads a young reporter to uncover the long story of race and power in his small town and the relationship between the white sheriff and the black man who "whipped children" to keep order.
    After Brady Sims pulls out a gun in a courtroom and shoots his own son, who has just been convicted of robbery and murder, he asks only to be allowed two hours before he'll give himself up to the sheriff. When the editor of the local newspaper asks his cub reporter to dig up a "human interest" story about Brady, he heads for the town's barbershop. It is the barbers and the regulars who hang out there who narrate with empathy, sadness, humor, and a profound understanding the life story of Brady Sims—an honorable, just, and unsparing man who with his tough love had been handed the task of keeping the black children of Bayonne, Louisiana in line to protect them from the unjust world in which they lived. And when his own son makes a fateful mistake, it is up to Brady to carry out the necessary reckoning. In the telling, we learn the story of a small southern town, divided by race, and the black community struggling to survive even as many of its inhabitants head off northwards during the Great Migration.

Member Reviews
(3 Jan)
This story is a quick trip through Bayonne Louisiana, a fictional town loosely based on Pointe Coupee Parish, with all the intergenerational, interracial, and economic troubles found in many parts of the country. We follow the life of Brady Sims, told beautifully through those that knew him best.

The points shared are tragic and compelling, but so are the points left out, the empty spaces where generations once were, the fleeing of a blighted land for the hopes of California.

Reading this book was as much like looking at a foreign land as it was looking in the mirror. I’ve never lived long in a place where Jim Crow laws shaped a worldview, but I can see how I tacitly create hardship for many as I ignore them in my busy life. This story is as much about those that have been overlooked as it is about the prices we pay to face up to these realities.

While still processing this story, I found Tobias Wolff's The Heart of Whiteness to guide me with my discomfort. It is difficult to tell the truth about our own lives, especially when it involves things we didn’t create like race. Gaines had the insight and courage to show me these things and Wolff encouraged me to keep looking.

In a world where we define each other by skin color, party affiliation, or class, it is refreshing to look beyond these things and see one another as human. This was my first work from Gaines, recommended by my local bookstore. I'll read more from him.
Other books on CC by the author

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