• 2008
  • W. W. Norton & Co.
  • Hardcover, Kindle, iBook, paperback
Buy online


A powerful novel about race, class, sex, and a lie that refused to die.

  • Shortlisted for the 2009 Orange Prize for fiction
  • Chosen by the Richmond Times Dispatch as one of the five best novels of the year

Alabama, 1931. A posse stops a freight train and arrests nine black youths. Their crime: fighting with white boys. Then two white girls emerge from another freight car, and fast as anyone can say Jim Crow, the cry of rape goes up. One of the girls sticks to her story. The other changes her tune, again and again. A young journalist, whose only connection to the incident is her overheated social conscience, fights to save the nine youths from the electric chair, redeem the girl who repents her lie, and make amends for her own past. Intertwining historical actors and fictional characters, stirring racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism into an explosive brew, Scottsboro is a novel of a shocking injustice that convulsed the nation and reverberated around the world, destroyed lives, forged careers, and brought out the worst and the best in the men and women who fought for the cause.

Reviews and Praise

"A riveting drama...inspired and inspiring.... Ruby is a gem of a character, and belongs with the best of William Faulkner's, or Alice Walker's, women." San Francisco Chronicle

"Emotionally charged...a strong sense of dramatic tension.... Feldman gets her history right and...the fictional characters are rendered in artful service to the novel's larger project...a powerful tribute to the nine [Scottsboro] men.... Thanks to Feldman's scholarly research and her ability to imagine the interior lives of historical figures, more readers may hopefully learn about this significant moment in American history." Atlanta Journal Constitution

"Spellbinding fiction.... Rich imagination, memorable characters and elegant but restrained prose.... On par with Feldman's characterizations is her subtle reflection of reality.... With a sure sense of storytelling, a deft hand at characterization and a stylish and sensitive use of language, Feldman has created another affecting portrait of the past. And in so doing, her tale of racism and poverty, lies and hopelessness, brings an American disgrace to life with eloquence, intelligence and passion." Richmond Times Dispatch

"Feldman re-animates the drama in a novel that is based on archival records, court records, and first-person accounts but that succeeds overwhelmingly as a work of imagination...distilled with great subtlety and wit, into a story worth retelling and remembering." Boston Globe

"A taut, haunting legal thriller... Feldman artfully articulates the uneasy relationship between two women ... The fabric of the time is beautifully woven... a suspenseful pageturner...If you want to know what happened to the Scottsboro boys, read the book." The Telegraph (UK)

"An astute history... Feldman's clear-sighted vision of the Scottsboro case reveals not only violent racism in the South, but also anti-Semitism, sexism and a contempt for poor whites... There were real innocents: African American young men who lost years of their lives, their health and hope. It is for them, and the bitter lessons they taught everyone who touched the case, that Feldman's book has been written and should be read." The Independent (UK)

"A literary masterpiece...one of the most stunning and powerful novels I have read in quite a long time...beautifully written and meticulously researched...you will be held captive." The Decatur Daily

"A keen sense of drama...a raw sense of alienation and collision." Publishers Weekly

"A page-turner.... Feldman has a talent for reimagining history [and] methodically draws the reader deep into the emotional territory of the Jim Crow South." Book List

"Feldman's simple, eloquent phrases and realistic representation of the human condition make her book gripping and demonstrate a masterful control.... Especially gripping is the painted humanity of Ruby Bates." Library Journal

"Clearly Feldman combed through countless eyewitness accounts to get her details straight; in her hands the story and characters come heartbreakingly to life." Jewish Book World

"Compelling and still timely." Jewish Woman Magazine

"A compelling fictional account of one of history's greatest miscarriages of justice." Waterstone's Books Quarterly (UK)

"Absolutely hypnotizing...a fearless examination of the moral ambiguities...a shatteringexamination of all the kinds of ambition intrinsic in any public outcry for any kind of justice." The Anniston Star

"Moving, disturbing and enormously powerful...this brilliant book offers no cozy resolutions or perfect happy endings. But then, neither did the true story on which it's based." The Gloss Magazine (Ireland)

"Ruby is a marvelous fictional creation...this account of a famous court case that exposed the murderous face of racial prejudice is truly gripping." Historical Novels Review (UK)