The Other Side of Freedom

Children - Preteen
198 Pages
Reviewed on 01/08/2018
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Cynthia chose to write for young people to show them how wonderful, powerful, and valuable they are. She creates complex characters and twisty plots—because life is complicated. Ask any teen! Her stories address issues that young people face today or faced in history, but they are full of hope and laced with humor.

Cynthia's contemporary Bird Face series includes 8 Notes to a Nobody, 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status, 6 Dates to Disaster, and 3 Things to Forget. The first edition of her debut novel, Bird Face, won a 2014 Moonbeam Children's Book Award, Bronze, in the Pre-teen Fiction Mature Issues category. Her first coming-of-age historical, The Other Side of Freedom, takes place in 1925. It has received literary awards from Next Generation Indie Book Awards (2018 First Place Grand Prize and First Place Children's/Juvenile Fiction), Catholic Press Association (2018 CPA Book Awards, Third Place, Children's), and the international Readers Favorite Book Awards (2018 Gold Medal, Children, Coming of Age).

    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

The Other Side of Freedom by Cynthia T Toney takes us back to 1925, pre-Depression Louisiana and the small town of Freedom. Salvatore is just thirteen, but this son of Italian immigrants is a hard-working farm boy, whose parents and uncle have struggled to make a good life for themselves in this rural area. Prohibition is in full swing in America and when Italian mobsters come to town and demand Sal’s father’s help in their plans to rob the Freedom bank, or they will hurt his family, Sal’s family finds themselves in a moral quandary. When the bank robbery goes awry, Sal is left with a secret that could destroy their entire lives and set their family on the run. This young man must weigh up the rights and wrongs of the situation and make a decision that he and the rest of his family can live with. Sal is just discovering his feelings and attraction to his best friend, Antonina, and whatever decisions he and the family make are almost certain to affect the relationship. This is indeed a moral dilemma.

I found The Other Side of Freedom to be a truly compelling coming-of-age story. The setting was beautifully described by Cynthia T Toney and one felt oneself being drawn back to the era of gangsters, the G-Men, and bootlegging across the south. The feel of the story was authentic and the action fast and furious. I particularly found it interesting to compare the experience faced by the Italian and Sicilian immigrants of the 19th and early 20th centuries to those of the immigrants of today. They faced discrimination and generalisation – they are Sicilians, therefore they must be gangsters and criminals, where today we see they are Arabs, therefore they must be terrorists. I also thought it interesting that Sal found some sympathy and empathy with his black friend, Hiram, in that the prejudices they both faced were somewhat similar. I particularly liked the fact that Toney offered some questions at the end of the book for younger readers to consider and reflect on the story. This is an excellent children’s story that poses some interesting moral dilemmas for young readers to ponder.

Leslea Wahl

This book is set in the 1920’s and told from the point of view of a middle school age boy – Salvatore. Toney effortlessly delved into the mind of a young boy who lived in Louisiana during the tumultuous Prohibition years, weaving together a fascinating tale of hardship, corruption and the importance of family and faith. This intriguing, coming of age story focuses on the difficult choices and decisions one Italian immigrant family must face while desperately trying to keep their family together.

I didn’t know much about this interesting time in our history when Italian/Sicilian gangsters terrorized American communities, but was fascinated by this story and how these crime sprees affected law-abiding families of Italian descent. Besides being a captivating story, this book provides plenty of discussion topics including the repercussions that can arise when trying to do what is right, as well as the issues of: prohibition, segregation and immigration. Bravo to Cynthia T. Toney for creating yet another wonderful, thought-provoking teen novel.