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Dale Kueter
Motel Sepia
Dale Kueter, author

"Motel Sepia" is historical fiction based on a real motel of the same name owned by a black Iowa couple.  In the early 1950s, this family took a trip to the West Coast and discovered the reality of the time: Between Chicago and San Francisco there were only six places that would accept black guests.  Upon return, they begain their own motel business, accepting everyone.  That included a fictional mob killer and fictional black and white guests who had to deal with racial intermingling as well as the trauma of murder.

In this critique of racism in 1955 America, Kueter creates lively characters who stay at an integrated motel that accepts all people. When the enterprising black couple Elroy “Roy” Sanders and his wife, Lillian, open the Motel Sepia in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, it’s in response to the lack of accommodation for traveling people of color, but Roy welcomes everyone, no matter their race or culture. The lives of Viola and George McDowell, Ben and Ann Rooney Dolan, Harold and Monica Erickson, and more guests of different races and cultures are detailed as they travel on their various journeys, and when they stop for a short stay at the motel, Roy is pleased. There is some suspense for the first group of guests when a playful hoax by a young black man in Cedar Rapids appears to result in a murder, and questions of mob involvement arise, but Roy’s endeavor to run a rare multiracial motel is a success. The Motel Sepia is a true facet of Iowa history, and the careful attention given to the background of each character—no matter how small their role in the story—brings all of them to life. (BookLife)