The Moon in Our Hands

Written by Thomas Dyja
Review by Alice Logsdon

In the aftermath of a brutal lynching, bystanders begin sifting through charred ashes, taking a ring, scraps of the victim’s clothing, even his remaining fingers, as souvenirs. It is unthinkable that anyone could stand by while someone they have known all their lives is tortured and burned, much less rifle through the remains. However, this is rural Tennessee. The year is 1918. And the victim was black.

Walter White volunteers to travel south from New York City to investigate the crime for the NAACP, hoping to find justice for the victim’s family, and possibly generate enough outrage that the rest of the country will take notice. Posing as a white man and a salesman, he travels by train to Sibley Springs, Tennessee. After only a few hours, he believes he knows the identities of the men who killed Cleon Quine. Over the course of the following two days, he tries to prove, or disprove, his suspicions, all while looking over his shoulder. Should his secret be exposed, his chances of escaping a similar fate are slim.

This is the fictional retelling of actual events. Walter White, an exceptionally light-skinned, blonde haired, black man, investigated numerous lynchings and played an important, though largely forgotten, role in the burgeoning civil rights movement, eventually as acting secretary of the NAACP. Using White’s notes as his starting point, author Dyja successfully recreates the atmosphere of tension and oppression as the story unfolds. This is a suspenseful, engrossing novel, exploring the motivation of evil as well as the complexities of racial identity.