The New Frontier

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Twelve is a big year for most, a critical time of transition. For Samuel Cole – a curious, imaginative, and likable boy – it was also a time to leave the familiar comfort of his Black community and move into an all-White suburb with Mom and Dad. Just like that, fun times with his best friends Terelle and Jamelle – experts in monsters – are over. In the hopeful era of American globalism under President John F. Kennedy, Sam’s Dad was thrilled about the prospect of being pioneers: the first Black family to move into Fisher Place. The move did not go smoothly. The stares and glares were soon replaced by vandalism and hostility against the Coles. Not long after, the “for sale” signs went up in multiple yards.

Feeling unwelcome, Sam missed his long talks with friends about which monster would be victorious over another in battle. White boys avoided him or outwardly threw insults. Sam soon made friends with Patsy McGuire, and it did not take long until they were talking about alleged monsters that lurked in the neighborhood. When a basket of cookies began appearing at the Coles’ front door every week, Sam suspected there might be truth in Patsy’s stories. A fateful meeting with an unlikely ally soon confirmed his fears about the bogeyman.

In The New Frontier, Wayne L. Wilson explores an at-once exciting and dreadful summer, a pivotal time for a Black boy to understand racism, asserting one’s place in the world, and the nature of friendships. Wilson starts off the book with a page-long content warning about racial slurs, which appeared in the book within the context of the racially divisive 1960s. Reading the racial slurs was jarring, only because they seemed immediate and honest in the context of hate. Although the book was fictional, the accounts mirrored incidents in Los Angeles and other Northern cities during the Civil Rights era. Although California was not a Southern or slave-holding state, Jim Crow attitudes prevailed.

Wilson was gifted in the art of developing conversant and convincing dialogues. The dialogues reflected the Black American dialect among discussions between Cole’s parents, the convos at Ike’s barbershop, and banter among Sam and his friends. Told from Sam’s point of view, it was enlightening and heartbreaking to view the discriminatory episodes. Wilson intended the book for a young adult audience who would appreciate looking back at the harms caused by prejudice. Then, as now, Blacks are racially profiled by police, and white flight occurs in cities throughout the country. Perhaps would inspire some readers to reflect upon past attitudes with the current polarization along racial lines.

Reviewed By:

Author Wayne L. Wilson
Star Count 4/5
Format Trade
Page Count 260 pages
Publisher Kinkajou Press
Publish Date 14-May-2024
ISBN 9781951122874 Buy this Book
Issue June 2024
Category Young Adult


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