Plot/Idea: Written from the perspective of her son, this well-researched memoir covers Erma Hill’s hardscrabble life as she escapes poverty, racism, and violence in rural Depression-era Georgia to ultimately become a famed “Number Hustler” in 1960s New York City. Though parts of the narrative stretch believability, it highlights the power of a woman who champions herself and her children above all else.
Prose: Roy successfully embodies his mother’s voice by creating a consistent narrative style that illustrates her inner complexity and nuances. The historical period is well-captured through attention to vernacular and style.
Originality: The life story of Erma Hill (or New York Red, as she was known in 1960s Harlem) is one of perseverance in the face of both unimaginable abuse at a young age, and the more mundane struggles of adulthood as a single parent. Her rise to neighborhood fame is a testament to her individuality, and the years leading up to her death are a riveting read.
Character Development/Execution: Erma Hill is convincingly depicted as a fierce protector and fighter, for both herself and her children. The reader is privy to her innermost thoughts and beliefs, as well as her unique code of conduct.
Date Submitted: January 11, 2022