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Dreamland Burning

Dreamland Burning

Book - 2017 | First edition.
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"When Rowan finds a skeleton on her family's property, investigating the brutal, century-old murder leads to painful discoveries about the past. Alternating chapters tell the story of William, another teen grappling with the racial firestorm leading up to the 1921 Tulsa race riot, providing some clues to the mystery"--
Publisher: New York : Little, Brown and Company, 2017.
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9780316384933
Branch Call Number: LATHA
Characteristics: 371 pages ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

Fast-paced historical mystery alternates between a modern-day teen investigating a skeleton found in her backyard and a teen in 1921 navigating the tensions that led to the Tulsa race riot.

From the critics

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Apr 16, 2021

Flawlessly plotted and insightful, Latham brought both modern day Tulsa and 1921 Tulsa alive. This was one of my favorite books of the year.
I can attest as a graduate of Tulsa's school system that we did NOT learn about this brutal era of Tulsa's history in 9th grade Oklahoma History class in the 90s. The textbook we used was old when I was a teen and the teacher was at least twice as old again as the book. She was likely a part of the generation that was hushing it up and that makes me sad. I had no idea that the Greenwood district had any history at all, much less one this horrid.
I am thankful for this book (and other media like Lovecraft Country) for their unflinching portrayals of the 1921 Race Riot/Massacre. We need more truths like these.

JCLS_Ashland_Kristin Jul 23, 2020

Teen historical fiction set against the backdrop of the 1921 Tulsa race riots...with a mystery. I loved that the book felt complete without any romance at its heart. In fact: the best friend character in the present-day portion is identified as asexual.

Jun 02, 2020

absolutely one of my favorite books. author does an incredible job switching between points of view. with everything that is going on in the world right now, especially the riots, i highly recommend this book. people often don't like to hear about the stuff that happened back then. they believe that if we ignore our past, it will go away. our past will never leave, we can't change it. privileged white Americans did truly horrific things to African people and instead of learning from our actions and striving to be better, we try to ignore it. we try to avoid subjects about massacres or race riots or anything to do with Nazis because they are ugly words. the truth is that we shouldn't hide from the words that describe terrible events because they were truly terrible events. they defined our past, but they don't have to define our future. the only thing that we can do is strive to be better. this book really opened my eyes to the problems that i have been blind to. the author does a great job at making this story historically accurate and having characters added into the story who are relatable, would encourage young readers to learn about problems that we can face even in today's society.

May 18, 2020

When construction contractors discover the unthinkable under the floor of her family's guesthouse, Rowan and her best friend James decide themselves to investigate, independently of the police, how the nearly 100-year-old skeleton with a crushed skull came to be buried on her family's property. As clues lead them into the past, Rowan and James come face-to-face with a painful and shameful event in Tulsa's history. The story is told via parallel timelines: through Rowan's eyes we view the present, but the events of the past are told through the lens of Will Tillman, a white teenager directly involved in the violence of 1921.

When this book percolated to the top of my to-read list, I have to admit that I didn't remember why I'd added it back in 2017, but I became eager to dig in when I realized that it centers around the Tulsa race massacre because I had not too long ago listened to a SYMIHC podcast about that very incident. The subject matter is presented with both frankness and sensitivity, and there are a number of moments for the contemporary reader to reflect on what they might have done when faced with similar circumstances. Recommended, particularly in conjunction with education in the Civil Rights Movement and the Jim Crow era.

Mar 15, 2019

This is easily one of my favorite books. The author does a great job transitioning from both sides of the story and I was hooked from the first page. Very well written and worth the read.

Dec 22, 2018

I noticed a large trend in these kinds of books where it’s half in the present, and half in the past. It’s not a trend I particularly like as I adore historical fiction and mixing it with things happening in present day takes away the historical aspect, but I gave this book a chance. This one grabbed my attention because of the subject which interests me. I have not heard of the Tulsa Race Riot until I grabbed this book. It was an eye opener, and definitely something that can’t be ignored or forgotten.

The switch between Rowan and William is seamless and flows throughout the novel. Rowan attempts to figure out the mystery behind the skeleton while William’s story not only gives you the background information but also gives you the sense and the climate on how it was for African Americans back in those times. The historical aspects of the book is well written and gives you a good general idea.

At first, William doesn’t seem that all a likable character. As the plot progresses though, you change your mind as his behavior and outlook changes to something much more favorable. Rowan’s side of the story is interesting too. She’s been pretty much sheltered in a good, privileged life who is also suddenly awakened by recent events affecting herself and others around her. She’s a well written character as well, but I’d have to say I prefer reading William’s side of the story more as I found Rowan’s point of view dragged in a few areas of the story.

The plot overall is well done and interesting. The mystery and historical elements of the story also keeps the plot engaging and it’s a good educational read. Definitely something to read more into and a good subject to write about.

Jun 08, 2018

An important and relevant look at our city's past and present that everyone should read.

Dec 25, 2017

What a book. You discover a body from the first chapter and I still couldn't tell you who it was until the last chapter. This unfolded beautifully with twists and turns in both stories and they came together so well. I was intrigued and surprised and incited by both stories and by both main characters. They represented their time periods well. It was an excellent dual perspective and I was grateful to learn about an event in US history that I knew nothing about.

Latham really dove into Oklahoma, Tulsa specifically with the mentioning of specific neighborhoods and streets. I appreciated how local it felt while still dealing with national issues and a historic event.

My only reason is that it wasn't five stars is that it was slow at points. When it got going, it really got going and didn't stop. But there were some moments were I was just egging to keep diving, keep learning, and keep progressing. Which I guess doesn't necessarily mean I should deduct a star but I just felt like it dragged in some places.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was unique and a good mystery with great characters and a satisfying ending. Well done.

Dec 11, 2017

I absolutely LOVED this book! I couldn't put it down. I could've read it in one sitting if I hadn't started it at 10:30pm. The twists and turns of the mystery had you second guessing yourself up until it was solved. It felt like I was reading the book version of a season of How to Get Away With Murder. Not the topic but how at the beginning and end of each episode you find out more and more of what happened in the future and in case of the book, what happened in the past. 10/10 would recommend.

Nov 10, 2017

Having learned about the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot(Massacre) in high school but wanting to know more, I was curious to check out this book after hearing an interview with the author on the radio. I'll admit I was skeptical at first of the premise, as well as the YA and fiction-take on the story; I wasn't sure if the truth would be "watered down" or if certain artistic liberties (the protagonists, all characters with dialogue, are fictional) would be disrespectful or take the reader away from the reality of the time. This is a story that needs to be more widely known and understood.
I was pleasantly surprised and happy that my fears were unfounded. Dreamland Burning was a riveting page-turner, and as a long-time Tulsan I found myself beaming with pride whenever I recognized a local reference (there are lots of Tulsa name-drops in this book, from local locales to historical figures to the "pace" of life here) and equally appalled or disgusted when faced with the harsh reality that was Tulsa, OK in 1921. This was a terrible time in Tulsa's past, and for too long the city has tried to forget it ever happened. Thankfully that is changing, in part to books like this.
Yes, at its heart this is a YA novel, so i felt at times like the dialogue was clunky and certain aspects of the history were "softened", though never omitted entirely. To her credit the author addresses as much in an epilogue. But the positive aspects of the book far outweigh its flaws, and I think everyone from a high school student to an adult history buff can enjoy this book very much. This is not the definitive tome on the Tulsa Race Massacre mind you, but it is an enthralling introduction to a sensitive subject from history and heated topics that sadly are still very relevant today. The decision to stagger two narratives, one in 1921, one in present day, ends up being a compelling way to bring history to life, to show in what ways progress has been made, and in what ways it hasn't.
I have spent many of my formative years in and around the Greenwood area of Tulsa, what was once a burgeoning hub for an isolated black community known as "Black Wallstreet", and it can be hard to picture what once was, and what was lost. But "Dreamland Burning" transports the reader to a forgotten era and a once-forgotten tragedy, and hopefully plants even the tiniest seeds of understanding and growth, so that all the pain suffered in 1921 will not have been for naught.

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Jun 19, 2017

ReaderErin thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over


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Apr 08, 2020

“I understand now that history only moves forward in a straight line when we learn from it. Otherwise it loops past the same mistakes over and over again."


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