by Albert L. French


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Albert French lights up the monstrous face of American racism in this harrowing tale of ten-year-old Billy Lee Turner, who is convicted and executed for murdering a white girl in Banes County, Mississippi, in 1937. Constructed in a series of powerfully lean vignettes, Billy is a tour de force of dramatic compression, focusing on how this outrageous event affects an entire community. The high-spirited Billy, his mysterious and passionate mother, Cinder, and his friend Gumpy are realized with depth and authority. Told in classic, unrelieved terms yet with remarkable compassion and restraint, their story is an unsentimental and ultimately heart-rending vision of racial injustice.

“A work of art . . . Billy never lets up, not for a minute . . . The images rush straight to your brain. . . . Magnificient.”—Bill McKibben, New York Daily News

“Althought I only knew Billy Lee Turner for an all too brief 214 pages, I will mourn his death for the rest of my life. That’s how powerfully and dramatically written this book is.”—Claude Brown, author of Manchild in the Promised Land

Billy’s strength is not strictly as a novel; it lives as theater. It is a folk opera that . . . moves with unfaltering pace to its shattering climax.”—New York Newsday

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780670850136
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date: 10/28/1993
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 6.05(w) x 8.84(h) x 0.85(d)

About the Author

Albert French served four years in the US Marines and later worked as a medical photographer and photojournalist. He is the founder of the Pittsburgh Preview Magazine, as well as the author of the novels Billy and Holly, and the memoir Patches of Fire. He lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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Billy 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read many of books in my lifetime and this book is my favorite. It held my attention from the start till the end. Being from Mississippi, I could feel how the situation was and that made for a very emotional trip in the past. This book will always be my favorite!!!!
altima313 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've just finished reading this amazing debut novel by Albert French. This book sat on my bookshelf for years. I¿ve wanted to read it, but kept passing it up for other choices. It became a pick as a book club selection. It¿s a wonderful although disturbing story. This extraordinary novel sinks deep within the reader's mind with vivid characters and a powerful setting. I found it difficult keeping my attention on the dramatic prose (beautiful as it was) as the story unfolded. Though set in 1937, it is a story still very relevant to our attitudes about race today. The acts of racism 1937 as described in this book still continue in 2012, in height of the Trayvon Martin case, a more recent examples that prove that racism is a disease that has not yet been cured in the heart of America.I read Billy and actually felt like it was a true story. I had to keep reminding my self that it is fiction. However, in reality the youngest person tried and executed in the history of the United States at the age of 14 for first degree murder. George Junius Stinney Jr. died by electric chair in Columbia, South Carolina in 1944 for suspicion of murdering two white girls.It's impossible to avoid an emotional reaction to Billy. The grief of the families' losses, Billy's confusion about what he did and what's happening to him is well-written, but extremely difficult to read, as I realized where it was going, and that there was no outcome other than the obvious one.Now on to "Cinder". "Cinder" is the follow-up to Albert French's outstanding novel, "Billy".
jiraiya4321 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Billy is a book that from the beginning you know the end, but you keep reading in hopes that something will help Billy out or some kind of miracle would happen. It is emotionally gripping and makes for a great read if you don't have too much time on your hands. The characters are well Described and give the book a more realist feel to it. The only gripe I have is that this book is like others of the genre, such as A Lesson Before Dying. Other than that this is a great read for anyone.
autumnesf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Book about a white girl that is stabbed by a young black boy she was beating up and the consequences thereof. A really good read. Sad and probably not far from many truths of that time.
karstelincoln on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Challenging and contraversial. Heartbreaking. Stong argument for deconstructing racial divides.
Guest More than 1 year ago
the book is so good. I read it many times, I like the way A. French explains every detail. He is just amazing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Once I started reading Billy I was unable to stop.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is by far one of the most powerful books that I've read. You will cry for Billy long after you have finished the last page. Albert French produced a masterpiece.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i was given this book back in 1995 and read it in one night. it shows the beauty and harshness of life within its pages. from cover to cover you feel like you're right there. Billy sucks you in and makes you want to read further and further.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is the only book that ever made me cry. This is truely a great and realistic novel about racism in the 30ies.
Guest More than 1 year ago
a very hard book to read. somewhat a little unbelievable at times (would they have really sent a 10 year old to the electric chair!) but very well written depicturing that period perfectly.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Billy' was an excellent book. I enjoyed it so much. by looking at it's cover I would've never picked it up except that I had to write a brief thesis on it. The book was excellent. After I read one page I couldn't wait to get to the next. Every word is so compelling that the book actually pulls you into it. It's heartbreaking and the ending is beyond expectations. Overall, it's one of the best books I've ever read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
You can taste the south in this extraordinarily moving first novel from Albert French. An astonishing debut, this first book is French's best. It will affect your life in a way that few books do. You will never forget Billy, which in some way is a very good reason to keep well clear of this book! It is so affecting, and so compelling, and you will cry at the end, like everyone else who reads it. And yes, it is a very good read. Don't miss it!