If Only You Were White

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
373 Pages
Reviewed on 02/03/2022
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Author Biography

Al Beard is president of Southern Sports, Inc., a professional sports photography company serving Georgia and South Carolina since 1976. He received his degree from the Art Institute of Atlanta. Previously Al spent four years writing for a newspaper in his hometown of Martinsville, Virginia. He and his wife Robin reside in Lexington, South Carolina. This is Al's third novel.

This novel was inspired by studying old newspapers and learning more about the severe social injustices of the pre-civil rights era.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Trisha Dawn for Readers' Favorite

The year was 1918 and the body was not his. Famous baseball player Austin Evans, who had been raised by his racist grandfather, woke up in the past and in a black man's body after being hit in the head by a pitch in 2015. If Only You Were White by Al B. Beard tells the story of how Austin then lived his life and played the sport he loved around a time of great divide. If Only You Were White is a literary gem. The genres of this novel are vastly different from each other - history, baseball, social issues, and time travel - and yet, they all worked well together. Al B. Beard was able to create a smooth plot and sustain a good pace while the story developed. In addition to the interesting main characters, it was a nice touch to include many famous baseball players from the past for that feeling of authenticity. The dialogue between the characters also contributed greatly. It was a good decision not to tone down or change the words to suit the modern day. After all, most parts of the story took place from 1918 and beyond. This book can be enjoyed by everyone. There were no difficult baseball words to mull over and there were explanations offered whenever necessary.

Really, I couldn't get enough of this story! I hung on every word and turned the pages with bated breath. The characters, even with all of their flaws, inspired me and opened my eyes to how grave the situation was in the past. It made me more aware of that significant part of history. I was emotional while I kept up with the characters and the people they met along the way. Although I knew that history was not so kind to people of color, I was not aware of the extent of the brutality. If You Were White did not just entertain me. It also schooled me. It didn't hurt that I also learned something about baseball! Overall, Al B. Beard's If You Were White is magical, entertaining, and humbling. It has the power to whisk readers away into its world. It's a book to watch out for and, definitely, a must-read.

Frank Stephen

In 2015, Atlanta Braves pitcher Austin Evans fell into a coma and found himself in Providence, a hospital in Chicago, in 1919. A white man raised by his racist grandfather, Austin wasn't much of a fan of African Americans. Oblivious to their struggle or exploits in baseball, he wakes up as a black man in a time when segregation, lynching, and Jim Crow were on full blast. For twelve years, he learns firsthand the ugly truth about what it meant to be black in America in that era. Austin comes face to face with racial slurs and degrading treatment while trying to reconcile his new identity with his race in the future. He discovers that skin color doesn't make anyone better or worse and gets to know his grandfather in a way he never did; a twist at the end worth discovering in If Only You Were White by Al B Beard.

If Only You Were White by Al B Beard perfectly explores the world of black baseball in the 1920s. It is interesting to see a work of fiction that explores the history of racism in America. I love how it captures black success and struggles in a field that considered them inferior. Here, they could only play in the minor league solely because of the color of their skin. It shows how, despite being treated as second-class citizens, a group of exceptional black baseball players made tremendous accomplishments in their profession way before Jackie Robinson. The narration style is straightforward yet effective enough to portray a captivating and emotional story. Austin and his friend Bingo are fascinating characters, and their camaraderie with other black baseball players is heartwarming and endearing.

Lex Allen

Unbeknownst to Atlanta Braves, ace pitcher Austin Evans was raised by a racist grandfather. During a game in 2015, a pitch hit him in the head and he fell into a coma. Waking up in 1918, he finds himself in the body of a black man. The story follows his struggle for survival over the next 12 years, as he learns first-hand how skin color has nothing to do with talent, but everything to do with acceptance and treatment as a fellow human being. Playing in the Negro Leagues during this time, he crosses paths with his grandfather several times and learns first-hand of his grandfather's racist past. If Only You Were White by Al B. Beard is two parallel stories. The first is the supernatural event that sends lead character Austin Evans, a white superstar pitcher for the Atlanta Braves into the past, effectively a parallel universe, where he awakens in a hospital almost a hundred years earlier as a black man. The second story is an abbreviated history of the Negro Baseball Leagues, from its inception to the precipice of black players making it into Major League Baseball, theretofore dominated by white players.

Al B. Beard writes in a unique style that combines fictional story segments interspersed with historical facts; a fascinating mixture that puts verisimilitude squarely in the spotlight. Though both stories are enthralling in and of themselves, I'd have preferred more of the story that entails Austin's personal struggles as a black man in some of the worst days of Jim Crow laws and the KKK, and maybe a little less of the historical snippets of the Negro Baseball League. Regardless, the combination works and Beard's research into baseball and racism proved effective and necessary for this spellbinding story of racial issues and thrilling baseball events. Highly recommended for baseball fans and readers who enjoy historical elements, and acts that formed a base for current societal events. It was unique, informative, and entertaining. I hope to read more of Beard's work in the future.