Week 10 of this year’s SYNC season comes to participants courtesy of Listening Library. MISSISSIPPI TRIAL, 1955 and THIS IS MY AMERICA both offer realistic fiction exploring how “justice” disappears as a reality when it isn’t applied universally. There is no justice for me unless you, too, are treated justly.
Author Chris Crowe tells a version of the murder trial for the killing of Emmett Till on August 28, 1955, from the point of view of a white teen. Victor Bevine narrates both the teen’s voice and that of his racist grandfather in tones and accents that give listeners the sense of you-are-there. And that raises many questions: What would you do in this situation, suspecting that an old friend of yours was party to Emmett Till’s murder? How would you feel about your grandfather, whom you loved so much, as you begin to see him from a more mature perspective? Thanks to Bevine, those new to audiobook listening will find themselves compelled to consider the real questions Crowe’s excellent characterizations suggest. Here’s a great example of how fiction can convey truth with more power than some nonfiction accounts.
Paired with this historical fiction is Kim Johnson’s contemporary novel which won narrator Bahni Turpin another of her many Earphones Awards for excellent performance. As an author, Johnson engages in literary activism as well as imaginative storytelling. Johnson and Turpin bring listeners a story about the reality of systemic racism that makes American “justice” an oxymoron more than 60 years after the Emmett Till case. The point of view here is that of a Black girl whose family is experiencing two instances of unjust treatment at the hands of the law. Both the judicial system and the police are depicted with unflinching realism that exposes how the United States, among other countries, has farther to go to deliver universal justice.
The two free audiobooks provide full counterpoint to each other, stretching well beyond any single time period. The week provides an excellent opportunity to compare and contrast both point of view and performance style—content and narration. You have until July 6 to download both to keep.
Photo of Chris Crowe by Weiderhold, photo of Victor Bevine courtesy of the publisher, Photo of Kim Johnson by JBoy Photography, photo of Bahni Turpin courtesy of the narrator.