GENRE: YA, Young Adult
Gouster Girl is the coming of age, risky affair between Valerie Davis a cute black girl from the South Side of Chicago and nerdy white Jeffrey Stark.
While the two are somewhat smitten they are late to realize that falling in love on Chicago’s South Side in 1963 is a highly risky business for an interracial couple.
Opportunities arise for both of them to help one another out of tough fixes—he saves her from attack at an all-white amusement park and she saves him from injury in a racial brawl at their high school. But as their romance becomes more serious, so do the racial dangers. White police target Valerie as a prostitute and black gang members see Jeffrey as trying to sexually exploit a black girl. Seemingly inevitably, the blossoming romance collides head on with the realities of Northern-style racism one hot summer afternoon at one of Chicago’s most beautiful Lake Michigan beaches, when a racial protest turns ugly, confronting the couple with terrible choices.
Eddie only turned upbeat when the conversation shifted to his job as a caddy at the South Shore Country Club. It was a beautiful piece of land, with a nine-hole golf course and expansive beach that hugged the Lake Michigan shoreline, and sat smack dab between the all-Negro 63rd Street beach to the north and the all-white Rainbow Beach to the south.
“Nobody believes me when I tell them I make four dollars and five dollars an hour being a caddy,” he bragged.
I was certainly amazed, not only by the earnings, but where he was making his money. I tapped on his forearm to interrupt him.
“Whoa, wait a minute, Eddie. The South Shore Country Club is restricted. You’re Jewish, right? How can you be working there?”
Eddie smiled. “Yeah, it’s restricted. But that only means Jews can’t join the club. They don’t mind if Jews do dirty work, be caddies or dishwashers.”
Mom and Dad hated the South Shore Country Club, as did most of their Jewish friends. “I don’t go anywhere I’m not wanted,” Dad once remarked when a friend of his visiting our apartment wondered if the ban on Jews joining might someday be lifted.
So I adopted that sentiment with Eddie. “Don’t you feel a little funny working there, knowing you or your relatives could never join as members?”
The smile faded, and Eddie turned serious. “I admit, I did feel funny at first. But everyone’s been nice to me. Lots of the golfers give big tips. When I started leaving there with $25 or $30 for six hours of work, just for carrying bags of clubs around a beautiful golf course, I felt less funny. The money is great, and that is what I’m worried about these days, making good money, to help my mom out.”
“Does anyone call you Jewboy or kike or anything like that?” I asked.
“No, nothing like that. I’m not even sure they know I’m Jewish. It’s never come up. As long as I don’t try to join. And my family could never afford to join anyway.”
I couldn’t think of any other objections to raise. It sure sounded like a good idea to me, carrying golf bags around a tree-lined course right on the lake and making good money.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
David E. Gumpert grew up on the South Side of Chicago, in South Shore and Hyde Park. In the years since graduating from the University of Chicago, he has attended Columbia Journalism School and worked as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and an editor for the Harvard Business Review and Inc. magazine. He has also authored ten nonfiction books on a variety of subjects—from entrepreneurship and small business management to food politics. His most prominent titles include How to Really Create a Successful Business Plan (from Inc. Publishing); How to Really Start Your Own Business (Inc. Publishing); Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Food Rights (Chelsea Green Publishing), and The Raw Milk Answer Book (Lauson Publishing).
He spent ten years in the 1990s and early 2000s researching his family's history during the Holocaust. The result was a book co-authored with his deceased aunt Inge Belier: Inge: A Girl’s Journey Through Nazi Europe (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing).
He spent much of the last half-dozen years going back to his own roots in Chicago to research and write the historical novel, Gouster Girl. While some of it stems from his own experiences growing up in South Shore and Hyde Park, he also conducted significant additional research to complete the book in late 2019.
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