The Summer We Got Saved

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Tab Rutland and Maudie May return in Pat Cunningham Devoto's saga of the South. The opinionated, yet naive teen Tab is proud of her southern white existence and of the ancestor who helped found the Ku Klux Klan. She regards segregation complacently, thinking she is fine. After all, her friend Maudie May is colored. Maudie has fought polio and resumed her life with a resigned determination. She now implements her training from the Highlander Folk School as she establishes a voting school, where she can teach other blacks how to read the registration forms.

Aunt Eugenia comes from California and spirits Tab and her sister Tina away to the Highlander Folk School to educate them through an integrated experience. There they meet Dominique, a biracial Yankee who continually irks Tab. The girls are exposed to the concepts of civil disobedience and nonviolent protest. Tina learns she has more important things to consider than makeup and white boys. The daily interaction of whites and blacks challenge Tab's beliefs and whittle away her inexperienced understanding of southern life.

Devoto offers a compelling coming-of-age story with female protagonists. She effectively balances her teen characters’ against Tab's father's struggle to break with tradition by changing his political stance. The Summer We Got Saved, surprisingly, lacks the religious overtones one would expect in the southern setting and in a movement greatly influenced by prophetic religion. However, the insightful viewpoints of each character, especially Dominique, provide a poignant look at the complex issue of racial integration that garnered a variety of responses and perspectives. True to history, a part of each fictional girl is sacrificed to the “random and inevitable fallout of cataclysmic change.”