All thirteen-year old Nita Simmons has ever wanted is to be a journalist, but when she flubs a piece for her middle school newspaper she becomes a laughingstock at school and risks losing her coveted membership to the Junior Journalists Club. Nita’s confidence is at an all-time low when Earl Melvin, her reclusive neighbor and the town’s most notorious criminal—picks that day to speak to her.
Mr. Melvin offers Nita a story—some old books he refers to as his memoirs. Nita can’t help but read the books, and what she finds is not violence but a tale of secret love and heartbreak in the Virginia back roads. Still dealing with her recent failure, Nita can’t believe that no one’s ever questioned such injustice in her own town. Sensing redemption, Nita dives into the research, getting to know the neighbor her mother warned her about. She conducts secret interviews, discovers how Mr. Melvin was nearly lynched before his arrest, then interrogated for over thirty hours before confessing to a horrible crime against a white coworker. Nita seeks out the prosecutor’s son, who recalls the lingering Jim Crow laws of the sixties, and how Earl Melvin’s supposed victim professed her love for him at his sentencing.
Nita writes the story and it quickly goes viral. The local news comes calling. The interviews roll in. It’s Nita’s dream come true, only it doesn’t feel that way. Nita has one more interview to do. And it might just be the toughest one yet.
Coming March, 3, 2020