Renaissance: The Nora White Story (Book One)
Yecheilyah Ysrayl, author
When seventeen-year-old Nora White successfully graduates High School in 1922 Mississippi and is College bound, everyone is overjoyed and excited. Everyone except Nora. She dreams of Harlem, Cotton Clubs, Fancy Dresses, and Langston Hughes. For years, she's sat under Mr. Oak, the big oak tree on the plush green grass of her families five acres, and daydreamed of The Black Mecca. The ambitious, young Nora is fascinated by the prospect of being a famous writer in The Harlem Renaissance and decides she doesn't want to go to College. Despite her parent's staunch protest, Nora finds herself in Jacobsville, New York, a small town forty-five minutes outside of Harlem. Shocked by their daughter's disappearance, Gideon and Molly White are plagued with visions of the deadly south, like the brutal lynching of Gideon's sister years ago. As the couple embark on a frightening and gut wrenching search for Nora, they are each stalked by their own traumatic past. Meanwhile, Nora learns that the North is not all it's cracked up to be. Can Gideon and Molly overcome their disturbing past in time to find their daughter before it's too late?
Ysrayl’s well-crafted historical novel—the first in a planned series—centers on 17-year-old Nora White, the child of black landowners in 1920s Mississippi. Though her parents expect her to attend college, Nora instead escapes to Harlem’s outskirts to pursue writing. She works as servant to a wealthy white woman who, while unpleasant, is benefactor to the writers and artists of the Harlem Renaissance whom Nora so deeply admires. Nora meets Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Dubois, and other figures, and she finds a mentor and friend in Hurston—whose outsized personality and charisma are genuinely conveyed. Ysrayl smoothly integrates poetry and literary references into Nora’s narrative, and she writes with awareness of Jim Crow Era laws and racism in the North and South. Chapters told from Nora’s mother’s perspective focus on their turbulent family history but somewhat lack the urgency of Nora’s sections; even so, Ysrayl captures the crackling energy of the Harlem Renaissance. This first installment of Nora’s story offers little resolution, but it sets up an intriguing set of dramatic circumstances for subsequent novels. Ages 12–up. (BookLife)