Posted by Literary Titan
His Name Was Ezra follows young Judith struggling with race and gender discrimination in the turmoil of the 1960’s. How did the idea for this novel begin and change as you were writing?
The inspiration for His Name Was Ezra came to me in early 2017, around the time Carolyn Bryant Donham, the woman who accused Emmitt Till—the fourteen-year-old African American boy who was brutally murdered in Jim Crow-era Mississippi in 1955—of grabbing/whistling at/harassing her was making headlines for saying she now felt the young boy did not deserve the fate he was given by her ex-husband and his accomplice, and that the alleged harassment wasn’t even true in the first place. I received a burst of inspiration based around what an interracial relationship would face during that era, and how, sadly, much of the same outcome would transpire, despite Mississippi’s embarrassment over the Till case.
This is an exceptionally well-written novel that’s high in social commentary. What were some goals you set for yourself as a writer with this story?
Thank you for the compliment! I honestly did not set any goals for myself when writing this book. I simply wanted to capture the journey of a woman’s sacrifice—first for love, then family, and then for her child.
I felt like you really captured the feel of the South during the 1960’s. What kind of research did you undertake for this book?
I am very happy to hear that! I certainly researched the details of the Emmitt Till case and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, two major historical events that took place just before and just after the events in the book. Also, I was adamant about legal details. I wanted to be sure that everything that transpired during the fictional trial was true and accurate to the law both then and now. I vowed never to write another legal/trail-based book after His Name Was Ezra!
I feel like the message of acceptance and forgiveness in this story is still relevant today. What do you hope readers take away from your book?
I feel the same way. I didn’t plan for the book to be as relevant to current events as it is. The nuances and undertones of my books always reveal themselves on their own. I certainly feel that the white men in the story were held to vastly different social standards than the young black man or the white woman who loved him. I think our society still suffers from deeply ingrained prejudices based on race and gender. We often let one person get away with what we would crucify another for. What was true in the era of Jim Crow is tragically still very much a reality today, just perhaps not as obvious or direct.
Judith Bracewell, a twenty-one-year-old, pale-skinned, red-haired, freckle-faced tomboy, enjoys spending her Saturday afternoons playing baseball with the boys on the other side of town. Falling in love with one of her teammates, dream-driven, hopeful future lawyer Ezra Washington, the pair are forced to spend their shared off-field time together in secret, deep in the woods within the confines of an abandoned Civil War-era cemetery. Residing in Waynesboro, Mississippi, in 1957, the strict, limiting, and dehumanizing laws of the Jim Crow South deem their natural bond forbidden, all due to the opposite color of their skin.
After Judith falls victim to a violent and brutal physical assault, Ezra goes missing, with Judith’s older brother, Ed, receiving the blame for his disappearance. When a fame-eager, ambitious assistant district attorney arrives to investigate the vanishing of young Ezra, Judith is quickly forced to balance her love and loyalty for her only brother with the overwhelming devastation and heartbreak she feels for her beloved, missing Ezra. Amid a reckless and ongoing criminal trial and quickly-deteriorating relationship with her younger sister, Francis, Judith must contend with a self-sacrificing decision that will eliminate her personal hopes and dreams for the future, but will save her brother’s life.
Years later, the cruel course of destiny has Judith trapped in an emotionally, psychologically, and physically abusive marriage, her only saving grace: her five-year-old son. Once more faced with an extreme decision of selfless abandon, Judith finds her fate dangling in the hands of not only the state of Mississippi’s judicial system, but also the slow-changing, ever-fickle, and often unjustified court of social and public opinion.
Set between the infamous Emmett Till murder of 1955 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, His Name Was Ezra tells the riveting tale of one young woman’s incredible journey of love, personal sacrifice, family loyalty, and forgiveness, and a region and nation’s deep-rooted struggle with race and gender discrimination.
Posted by Literary Titan
His Name was Ezra is an amazing story of love and tragedy. Taking place in Mississippi during the racially-charged 1950’s and 60’s. Jim Crow laws and inherent bias steer much of the plot of the story. Ezra, a young black man, and Judy, a freckle-faced white woman, have the cards stacked against them as their longtime friendship slowly begins to develop into something more.
Craig Moody writes beautifully. He has a poetry to his words as they describe his characters and their setting. I live in the south so I know that Moody sets the scene impeccably, speaking of dry words falling to the ground like acorns and the swatting of hungry mosquitoes. He also throws in some local color with the dialogue between the characters. Every “you” is replaced by “ya.” Brother becomes “brotha.” Sister becomes “sista.”
His Name was Ezra is set in another time, but the story is still relevant today. Race relations are still imperfect. We have come a long way as a nation, but we have so much further to go. This book can aid in bridging the divide. It’s an important tool to pull back the curtain, so to speak, on those who continue to judge people based on the color of their skin rather than the content of their character as Dr. King would have us do.
Moody also pulls back the curtain on domestic abuse. Judy suffers the brunt of Billy’s aggression. He describes how Billy only hits her in areas that will be covered by clothing in public or around others. Judy takes it because she feels she has no other choice. She sacrifices her happiness, her health, everything, to try to ensure the safety of her brother and then her son. She becomes a shell of herself. Self-preservation is not on her to-do list ever.
Readers will identify with Moody’s well-developed characters. Judy loves Ezra and her family, forgiving her brother and sister over and over. Luke tries to help Judy while furthering his career, and gets a few priorities mixed up in the process. Chances are, readers will also recognize the more menacing characters that stomp through the chapters. Billy is the picture of perfection in the community. Good family. Good looks. Wife and child. However, Billy is a heavily flawed and dangerous monster. We all know someone who has turned out to be someone different than who we thought they were.
I’m giving His Name was Ezra by Craig Moody five out of five stars. I would give him ten if I could. He has a beautiful way of describing even the most ugly parts of humanity. The story was cohesive. The plot flowed well. There was never a dull moment as suspense ebbed and flowed throughout the story. This was a real page-turner for me, and I cannot wait to read more of Moody’s work.
Pages: 232 | ASIN: B079NP9JJ5