Alligator BayouTitle: Alligator Bayou
Author: Donn Jo Napoli
IBSN: 9780385746540
Pages: 280 pages
Publisher/Date: Wendy Lamb Books, c2009.

Frank Raymond turns. “Are you asking me about the voting laws?”
“I guess.”
“No one can vote in Louisiana unless they’ve been residents for five years and pay the poll tax.”
“That doesn’t sound so bad.”
“There’s a third requirement: you have to read English. That alone is enough.”
“Enough for what?”
“To knock out Sicilians, even if they’ve become citizens. Most Negroes, too.” […]
“They want to keep Sicilians and Negroes from voting,” I say slowly.
“There’s more of you than there are whites. If you took control, the whole state would change.” (64)

Fourteen-year old Calogero is one of six Sicilians living in the small town of Tallulah, Louisiana. Although they’ve been there for years, tensions are rising as economics and politics collide. The town whites blame them for job and income losses, and the African Americans are suspicious of any white men where 1899 Jim Crow laws rule. But a disagreement regarding goats and watermelons escalate, Calogero realize just how bad things are, and just how important family is to him. Donna Jo Napoli presents a gripping fictional account of actual events in Alligator Bayou.

It’s amazing how I have gotten so far in life, and I don’t recall reading even one of Donna Jo Napoli’s books. I did see her speak at a conference about a year ago, and she writes mainly historical fiction and spin-offs of popular fairy tales from what I can tell. This was a wonderful introduction to the author, and I look forward to reading more of her work soon. She engages the reader, and catches their interest almost immediately. The descriptions are detailed and transport readers back in time. Her characters are portrayed well and have distinct personalities. The afterword and notes on research seperate fact from fiction nicely, and let readers know where she got her information. Issues of immigration are applicable to today, and readers will be sympathetic to Calogreno and his family’s plight.