Red River

Non-Fiction - Genealogy
447 Pages
Reviewed on 03/15/2009
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Anne Boling for Readers' Favorite

Lalita Tademy left the corporate world to research her family history. In her latest book, Red River, the accomplished author shares the true story of the “Colfax Riot.” She successfully intertwines history and fiction to educate and entertain the reader.

The setting is Colfax, Louisiana, 1873. The Civil War had ended years before, and the “colored” had been given their freedom. In many ways, it was a freedom in name only. There was still a lot of hatred between white and black. The Southern Democrats had been voted out and the Republicans in. The black men banded together to guard their town. They gather at the courthouse to defend their rights. The White League, a group of vigilantes, determined to regain control of the government and attack the courthouse, brutally murdering the men protecting it. The ones that surrendered were hung. Two white men and over one hundred black men were killed. Sam Tademy and Israel Smith survived; they are the ancestors of Lalita Tademy. The story does not end there; it continues on spanning three generations, sharing a tale of survival, triumph, and growth. Sam carried through with his dream to have a school for the black children in Colfax. It took hardship, tears, and work but he met the challenges and succeeded.

Red River by Lalita Tademy is a must read for all Americans, for we take for granted our right to vote. We have become lazy and complacent. Ms. Tademy successfully tells the heartbreaking story of the “Colfax Riot,” which was not a riot at all but a massacre. I liked this book; it has educated me to a piece of history that I knew little about. It has reminded me that men fought for the rights I take for granted. The first part of Red River, is very sad and has much violence. The second half offers hope and optimism. Red River is not an easy read; it will stir the emotions of the reader. The narrator is Polly, I would have preferred that the book be told first person. I found I had to concentrate on the words while reading this book, it is written in the manner that Polly would have talked. This would be a fine addition to a library, or to as a gift to a history buff.


RED RIVER had me weeping almost from the first page, and yet left me inexplicably hopeful after I'd read the final sentence. A multi-generational tale that begins with the Colfax Riot of 1873 and ends in 1937, it was, for me, an eye-opening tale of courage and violence, love and community, and the necessity of dreaming for ourselves and for those who will follow us.

Esther Cadle

This was a very educational and interesting book. Everyone should read it to get the idea of what a group of men and their families went through in order to provide an education (learning to read) for their children. We take a lot for granted now days, and this book reminds us that a lot of blood was spilled needessly to secure basic freedoms we now enjoy.


I enjoyed Red River, it was well written. The story told was not only based on true events but of real people, Ms. Tademy's ancestors. Many autobiography, non-ficton books I have read (I felt) did not make the characters come alive as in Red River. This book not only tells of a family trying to survive and their love to each other, but of a time in our history that we need to remember inorder to ensure that everyone has a right to be treated as human beings.


In Red River Lalita Tademy chronicles her father's family. The book was well written. It was sad, and disturbing but it chronicles three generations of the strong Tademy family whose motto was God, family and community. A must read for those who enjoy historical fiction.

Nissa Kendall

I found this book a little slower than Cane River at first, but after finishing it, I think I enjoyed it as much as the first one. It's a little difficult to keep track of all the names of the characters, but the pictures help you get to know them.

Kathey Rajala

These books were very interesting and factual.
I enjoyed them tremendously and Amazon got them to me quickly as promised.

D. Vaughn

i read Cane River a couple of months ago, and i truly enjoyed that as well. They're both very well written and researched books.

Phyllis Hund

This is hard for me, as it is coming from a 'white' perspective.However, my grandchildren are half black, but do not get much contact with that side of their family, and I wanted them to at least be aware of their history. Their mother has claimed from their conception that people's attitudes have changed and her children will be fine. No, they won't! In this country of the 'free', there will always be stigmatisom, whether you have a drop of Negro,Asian or whatever, blood,you will be treated differently! My grandson is 14, and has been through this '[...]' already. It breaks my heart! This book shows that it does not matter if you are as white as white can be, if anyone knows that you have one drop of Negro blood, then you are Negro.I did not invent this attitude, but I will fight for my granbabies until I die. Thankyou, so very much for writing this book!!!

Soledad Montoya

When I first saw this novel, I was thrilled because I loved Lalita Tademy's first novel Cane River so much. Red River is certainly not a disappointment and I'm looking forward to her third, fourth and fifth novels!

C. Parker

This was a great book and went into great detail about the past

Michelle Hughes

This was a selection for my multiracial multigender highly educated book club and we all enjoyed the book. And we all finished the book. It allowed us to discuss a variety of topics including race, race relations, slavery, family connections, history, the inaccurracies of history as it is reported in the US, gender roles, and a variety of other things. It is a great read for a book club.