Bud, Not Buddy is set in and around the city of Flint, Michigan in 1936, at the height of the Great Depression. Whereas the bulk of Depression literature focuses on the plight of those caught in the Dust Bowl areas of the nation, this story is unique because it brings to light the situations faced by children in the cities. As parents struggled to keep their families together and to keep their heads above water financially, many women raised their children alone while their men traveled far and wide in search of work. As in Bud's situation, there was a dearth of orphanages and foster homes to care for those children whose families could no longer bear the burden of keeping them during those desperate times.
By following Bud's journey, the reader is given a sense of the flavor of the times. Famous and notorious names of the era, including J. Edgar Hoover and the gangsters Al Capone and Pretty Boy Floyd, are mentioned, and Bud passes through Hooverville, one of the many cardboard shanty encampments put up by the myriad homeless individuals and families who could not afford to keep their former residences. He also runs into the Pinkertons, the infamous security brigade charged with keeping the ranks of the homeless out of sight. Most important to the story, Bud enters into the world of "small time jazz musicians" led by the likes of Herman E. Calloway, which survives as a testimony to the resilience of the richness of Black culture in the face of discrimination and desperate economic conditions.
A boy trying to find his father.