“People are always afraid of the truth. Hey, Liberal! is, I believe, a work of courage, and we all need to thank Shiflett for it.”
Charles Johnson, author of Middle Passage and winner of the National Book Award
(A story inspired by true events)
In this honest novel set in the racial tinderbox of Chicago in 1969, thirteen-year-old Simon Fleming, the white son of a Civil Rights activist minister, is sent to a predominately African American high school feeling charged by his parents to carry out the family’s commitment to the “community” and school integration. Here, he is dropped into a world where gang warfare, drug abuse, and violence are rampant. Simon’s journey for survival brings him into conflict with a Cobra Stone gangbanger, takes him through a failed student boycott organized by community leaders, and also through numerous race riots. Along his way, he meets friends and mentors: Clyde, a former gangbanger turned black political militant; Louis, a brilliant, self-destructive boy; Juan, who perilously chooses to belong to a white gang, Corps, instead of the more powerful Latin Kings; Clark, an intimidating racist police officer who vies for Simon’s allegiance in return for protection at school; and John, a communist biology teacher who educates Simon as much about politics as about science. Throughout the story, Simon’s love for Dia goes from an awkward crush to maturity. Hey, Liberal! exposes an out-of-touch education system and the universality of racial violence amidst a nation moving, inch by hard-fought inch, toward a more culturally diverse and inclusive future.