The author gives us a very interesting and topical Epilogue as a final word of this great novel where he discusses the contextual situation and what was happening in the south at the time. As part of this Epilogue, he says:
The characters and events in this novel are fictional. However, there were many unsolved bombings in Birmingham at the time of the story, including the one that took place at the Sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church on September 15, 1963. Four young teenage girls... were killed when a bomb went off during Sunday school.
So, whilst the author admits that the novel and the characters contained therein are indeed fictional, they are quite clearly based on a real, historical event where real daughters, like Joetta, were killed as a result of racial violence leaving their families distraught. Clearly one of the reasons why the author wrote this book was to capture a very difficult and trying period of race relations in the United States and to describe it through the boys of a young, sensitive black boy who tries to process what he sees and experiences.