Harvest of Tears, 2nd edition. Betty Pelley Smith. Denton: Zone Press, 2007. Paperback, 399 pages. ISBN 0-9777558-5-1 $18.95 http://www.zonepress.com
Betty Pelly Smith was born in the Sherman, Texas of 1924 and subsequently lived across the nation. Two decades ago she returned to Sherman. The childhood she would like to recall would be almost
idyllic. She had kind and loving parents, watchful neighbors, a supportive faith family.
But, the social pestilence of the Depression visited the community and over-stayed its welcome.
As jobs vanished, the stark twins of reality and fear ate rough spots on the veneer of civilization.
Some folks got desperate. A deeper poison seeps to the surface. That racism scarred her soul
that happened to be sheathed in a white skin. Smith writes, "I was 5 years old when I saw the
Sherman courthouse burn and saw a body hanging from a tree. In my 5-year-old mind, I
remember thinking, I thought he was black. All I see is white, as only white bones were hanging
there. I was haunted all my life by this sight. I could not understand how anyone could do such a
horrible thing." The legacy of the Sherman Race Riots flickered more oft than it should have in
Smith's long life.
Her fictionalized account of other such days lures the reader onward as the naïve, little girl's
eyewitness account describes her experiences. In the story, Elizabeth, the substitute for Betty's
emotions, personally faces the physical violence meted out to the designated scapegoats. As for
the plot, Elizabeth's family cares for the children, while Elizabeth's African American friend, Sam, becomes the target of Sam, the malevolent bully. Challenging to adults but could be introduced to mature teenagers.