Out of Darkness

Out of Darkness

Book - 2015
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Out of Darkness is a work of historical young adult fiction, loosely based on an actual school explosion that took place in New London, Texas, in 1937. Ashley Hope Perez has taken the explosion as her backdrop and imagined a diverse cast of characters whose broken lives are utterly captivating and tragically entangled with the school and the explosion. The central story is that of two teenagers: Naomi, who is Mexican, and Wash, who is black. It's a gripping novel about race, segregation, love, and the forces that destroy people. Author Biography.
Publisher: Minneapolis : Lerner Publishing Group, 2015
ISBN: 9781467742023
Call Number: TEEN F PERE
Characteristics: 402 p. : ill. ; 24 cm


From Library Staff

East Texas, Mexican American Naomi and African American Wash begin a bittersweet romance marked by oppressive racism and a terrible tragedy.

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ChristchurchTeens Sep 01, 2020

A beautifully done, but heartbreaking story about racism, abuse, segregation, love, family and a horrific school explosion in 1937 Texas.

Feb 09, 2020

A difficult story but one told with beauty and depth. The writing would be accessible to young people but the story deals with some serious material, so the book would be a better read for older teens or adults. A touching narrative that has the potential to open the heart of the reader to greater compassion.

While the characters may not make it "out of darkness" (not all of them at least) the book does provide some hope for redemption through the act of remembering. The author's own project of memory and reconstruction through the medium of fiction is an effective one and can be a model for other scholar-writers breathing life into the past through story. Ultimately, the novel is not about the escape from darkness but, as the epigraph from Langston Hughes indicates, it is about making something truly beautiful "out of darkness." That sadness and trauma can be a material out of which an elegant work of art can be created is made apparent both by the characters in the story and by the book itself.

Compare with Arundhati Roy's "The God of Small Things."

Jan 23, 2018

This book reminds me of a Shakespeare tragedy

JCLEmilyD May 27, 2017

This is a heartbreaking and powerful read. This is a story about racism, disaster, love and hope.

Feb 13, 2017

It is 1936, and high-schooler Naomi Vargas has just moved from San Antonio to east Texas to live with her step-father Henry, who works in the oil fields. While her two younger siblings can easily pass for white, Naomi takes considerably after her deceased mother -- clearly of Mexican heritage. This poses some difficulties in the community, where she mocked in school and advised to use the "back door" when purchasing groceries. Finding that her exhausting role in her new household is more or less that of a live-in maid, Naomi seeks solace in her newfound friendship with Wash Fuller, a boy from the nearby black community of Egypt Town.

There was something about this book that irritated me throughout, though I was never quite able to put my finger on what it was. I did appreciate that Henry was reasonably fleshed out, though it would have been perhaps tempting to paint him into a more one-dimensional personality. Although briefly mentioned in the opening pages, it was easy to forget while absorbed in the book that the author's underlying spark for the story is an actual school explosion that occurred in New London, Texas, in 1937. Fair warning: the final scenes in this young adult novel are almost unbearably horrifying.

Oct 10, 2016

A horror story based in reality. Texas, in 1936. People are rushing to find work at the oil wells.
Naomi, of Mexican heritage, and her bi-racial twin step-siblings are sent to live with the twins’ white father in an oil camp. Naomi feels the wrath of racism and her brother and sister, deemed to be white, excel in academics. Her step-father sees her as a substitute for her mother, his dead wife. Naomi is befriended by the black son of the black school principal. Knowing that their love can’t be shown, they vow to run away….and the story turns so ugly, as the white school is blown apart by a gas explosion. There is no happy ending, and I wish I could say no one should read this book, but with politics as they are, it must be read to show what hatred can do.

ellie_o May 06, 2016

There are books that you read because you know that they're good for you, even though you know they'll cause pain. This is one of them.
I just finished bawling my eyes out after finishing it (I knew as soon as I read the blurb that tears would be inevitable), and I have to say that I am still in awe of the way that Perez tackled so much in a single book. Let's see, the book includes family obligations, first love, racism, sexism, sexual abuse (including that of a minor), rape, domestic violence, lynchings, Christianity in the South, segregation, "passing", violence against minorities, hateful slurs and so much more. I had a pit in my stomach throughout the entire book - it talks about things that are ugly and immoral and hurtful and made even more so because of the underlying historical reality of it.
This will be a book that comes to mind when we talk about how books help readers gain empathy; it's a reminder to those of us who are white what incredible privilege we and our ancestors have experienced. It's a cautionary tale, especially when our current political situation has brought out the worst in some people.
I found this book particularly strong paired with the graphic novel series "March" - my teen book club has had some incredibly powerful discussions about race and oppression and injustice.

For mature readers - graphic language and descriptions of racism and sexual assault.

ElizF Mar 30, 2016

Incredibly well written, but extremely sad. Plenty of moments are filled with hope and love, but the heartbreak is most memorable.

LPL_KateG Mar 09, 2016

I love sad, beautiful books. I think this wins for the saddest book of all the sad, beautiful books. It's written so powerfully, it took my breath away.

Heads up: graphic descriptions of racial and sexual violence.

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JCLEmilyD May 27, 2017

Frightening or Intense Scenes: school explosion racism: violence towards black

JCLEmilyD May 27, 2017

Sexual Content: some sexual abuse


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