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  • Written by Susan Carol McCarthy
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  • Written by Susan Carol McCarthy
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On Sale: December 18, 2007
Pages: 288 | ISBN: 978-0-307-41819-7
Published by : Bantam Bantam Dell
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Here is one of those rare and remarkable debuts that herald the appearance of a major new talent on the literary scene. Inspired by real events, Lay That Trumpet In Our Hands is a wise and luminous story about a northern family, a southern town, and the senseless murder that sparks an extraordinary act of courage.

To this day, my family is in disagreement as to precisely when the nightmare began. For me, it was the morning Daddy and Luther discovered Marvin, beaten, shot, and dying, in the Klan’s stomping grounds off Round Lake Road. My brother Ren disagrees. He points to the small cluster of scars that begin just outside his left eye and trail horizontally across his temple to the top of his ear. Ren claims it started when the men in white robes took the unprecedented step of shooting at two white children. Others say it was when Mr. Thurgood Marshall of the NAACP and Mr. Hoover’s FBI came to town. Mother and Daddy shake their heads. In their minds, the real beginning was much earlier....


Chapter 1

Luther's on the back porch knocking on the door. Inside my cocoon of bedcovers, first thoughts, like moths, flutter. Temperature's dropped and the men have come to work the smudge pots. I see them in my mind, dark, bundled bodies shuffling, soft calls anticipating the all-night battle against a freeze, gloved hands passing shiny thermoses filled with fresh, hot coffee, maybe something stronger. No, no, the dusky wings whisper: winter's gone, the trees long into bloom, new fruit already the size of sweet peas. I wake with a start. What is Luther doing here, now?

There it is again, his distinctive tappety-tap-tap. Across the hall, Mother and Daddy's voices arc in surprise, recognition, then concern. Daddy's feet hit the floor. I hear him yank on pants, belt buckle jangling, jerk open their door, and stride to the back. In my room Buddy's tags jingle at the window, nose pressed against the screen, tail gently slapping wood. I slip down beside him as, suddenly, the porch light slants across the tangerine tree outside my window. A breeze carries the scent of blossoms and the sound of voices into my room.

"Good Lord, Luther, what is it?" Daddy asks.

"It's Marvin, Mist' Warren. He ain't come home. Armetta's about worried herself to death. The boy went out 'round eight, telling his mamma he'd be back 'fore midnight. Ah been looking for him since one. Run into Jimmy Lee just now, swears he saw Klanners cruising the Trail where Marvin's s'posed to be."

"The Klan? Where on the Trail?"

"Joe's Jook, up to Wellwood. Marvin's sweet on one of them girls up there."

"Marvin had any run-ins with the Klan?"

"Nawser, but the girl say he left 'round 'leven."

"What do you think?"

"Ah'm hoping we could check on Mistuh Myer's Valencia grove this morning, drive slow-like past Round Lake, take a look."

"Come on in. I need to get my shoes on and some coffee."

Opening my door, I see Mother, a blur of dark curls and blue robe, flash through the hall and into the dining room. Buddy and I trail her into the kitchen.

Luther's at the table, chair nearest the door, staring down into the frayed innards of his field cap. Daddy's at the stove fumbling with the coffeepot. Mother moves to help him. Touching her elbow in thanks, he turns to retrieve his work boots from the porch.

"Sorry to bother you, Miz Lizbeth," Luther says to Mother's back. "Hey, Roo," he says to me, abbreviating his usual greeting. Everything about him, normally cola-colored, is gray-cast: his eyes glow darkly in ashy nests of wrinkles; a frost of unshaved stubble smudges his chin; his clothes, usually pressed and proper, hang loose and rumpled. Buddy pads over to him, tail wig-wagging, and rests his muzzle on Luther's knee.

"Luther and I need to take a drive, honey," Daddy says low-voiced to Mother. "Marvin's missing and it's cruise night on the Trail."

"But, Marvin's not . . ." Her eyes zigzag between the two men.

"Thought we'd check on Myer's Valencias, swing by Round Lake," Daddy says calmly, talking code in front of me.

"Can I go?" I ask.

"Reesa Roo, we don't know what's out there." Daddy lifts a booted foot onto the side bench, tying leather laces. "Besides, aren't you supposed to be watching for the DeSoto? She's due in today and your mother says her room's not ready." Thrust and parry, Daddy's a master at it.

"Your mamma comin' in today?" Luther asks, his smile showing a glint of the 24-karat canine Marvin calls his "golden dog."

"Yep, we get her for Easter this year," Daddy replies, tying the other boot.

"She somethin', Miz Doto is. And Ah love that car!"

"Fits her perfectly, doesn't it?" Daddy says, shrugging into his jacket.

My grandmother's DeLuxe, drive-without-shifting, custom DeSoto coupe is the source of our family's nickname for her. Once, when I was two or three, I answered my parents' request to "watch for the DeSoto" with an eager "Here comes Doto!" and the name stuck.

"Coffee's ready, sugar's on the table." Mother lays spoons and two steaming mugs in front of them. "Get you anything else?"

Luther's eyes thank Mother for her kindness, then dart to Daddy's.

"I think we'd best get going, honey," Daddy answers, not sitting, swigging coffee deeply.

Luther stands, visibly relieved, and ducks out the door, tossing "See y'all later" over his shoulder.

Daddy throws his good arm around Mother and pulls her to the barrel of his chest. "Warren, take Buddy with you," I hear her urge in a whisper.

"Don't worry, Lizbeth," he replies with a kiss. "Bye, Roo, don't forget the hospital corners on Doto's bed. Here, boy!" As the shepherd jingles after him, I see Mother check the time on the kitchen clock.

"Where on Round Lake?" I want to know.

"Reesa," she sighs, clearly unsure how much she wants to tell, "there's been talk about a lemon grove, one of Mr. Casselton's, but . . ."

Mr. Casselton. In our county, where local boosters declare citrus is king, Emmett Casselton, owner of the sprawling Casbah Groves, considers himself the area's crown prince. In our house, where the only thing worse than an "arrogant son of a bitch" is an "ignorant damn Cracker," Emmett Casselton is both.

"You mean the Klan's taken Marvin to the Casbah?" My voice, my whole throat quivers on the phrase favored by local biddies, black and white, to reel in wayward children . . . "You better be good," they warn, "or the Klan'll take you to the Casbah!" I never understood it, never connected it to Emmett Casselton's vast acreage--until now.

"I don't know, Reesa. I doubt it. I do know, however," Mother says, retreating behind her Poker Face, "in the time it'll take me to fix breakfast, you can finish your grandmother's bed. Go on now. I'll call you when it's ready." Gentle hands turn me toward the door.

The window at the top of the stairwell glows oddly orange; daybreak's flaming the treetops of the back grove. Marvin, where are you?

Both my younger brothers lay sound asleep in Mitchell's room. I switch on the light in Ren's room opposite, its windows facing west and the driveway. Daddy and Luther should just about be there by now.

Ren's mattress is bare, except for the tidy stack of Doto's pink sheets. During the nine months she's elsewhere, our grandmother's sheets, two sets of them, sit folded in the upstairs linen closet. The sheets are from downtown Chicago's Carter-Ferris-Mott store. "I can't sleep on anything else," I heard Doto tell Mrs. Ruth Ferris at last year's Florida Party at the big Ferris house south of town. From there, she launched into "My aunt Ethel was a Carter, of the Cape Cod Carters; I'm sure we're related to your father-in-law's partner." If he's in that lemon grove, Buddy will find him.

Southerners set great store by their ancestry, but it's a rare Rebel who can go toe-to-toe with my Yankee grandmother and win. Doto dotes on her lineage the way other old ladies delight in dahlias or Staffordshire teacups. Given half a chance, she blatantly brags she named Daddy, her firstborn, for "Richard Warren of the Mayflower"; her daughter Eleanor for "the wife of William the Conqueror" and Uncle Harry for "the Revolutionary War hero General Light-Horse Harry Lee, of the New York Lees, not those people in Virginia."

Shouldn't they be back by now?

Stuffing and fluffing Doto's pillows, I hear, finally, the roar of the truck engine, Buddy's barking and the urgent blast of Daddy's horn. I run to the open window and yell, "Daddy, what's wrong?"

He jumps out onto the driveway and shouts, "Roo, get your mother. We need blankets, towels--quick!"

Hurtling down the steps two, three at a time, I nearly crash into her, arms full of linens from the downstairs closet. Together, we race out of the house to the truck.

Luther's on his knees in the back. Daddy grabs towels and blankets, yells "Stand back now!" and springs to the sideboard, bending low. A raggedy moan rises from the shadows of the truck bed. Mother steps forward to peer over the side and, with a sharp gasp, spreads her arms like wings and folds them backwards, trapping me behind her. I wiggle away and dash to the tailgate. Jumping up on the back bumper, I see with a shock the blood-covered body in the back.

Marvin Cully, who I've known all my life, who taught me to pick tangelos without ripping the fruit cap, who showed me the secret of steering a go-cart, who started the game of rhyming my name, lies drenched in blood in the bed of my father's truck. His head and eyes are covered with something, a familiar fabric, one of Ren's striped T-shirts, turned into a terrible blood-soaked turban. Bright red, dark brown, dried black blood is everywhere: congealing in cuts on his jaw and neck, seeping through rips in his shirt and pantlegs, oozing out of scrapes on the tops of his bare feet. "Marvin! You all right?" I cry as the sickening sweet smell heaves my stomach into my throat. His lips, bleeding in a bright red trickle onto his chin, don't move, can't answer.

"G'wan now, Roo!" Luther yells in a garbled plea, replacing a stained picking sack with a soft towel under Marvin's head.

"Lizbeth!" Daddy barks, settling blankets over Marvin's chest.

Mother's hands, like claws, yank me down, turn me around, clutch me to her chest. "No, Roo, no!" she cries, walking stiffly backward toward the house. Her heart, like mine, drums in my ear.

"Lizbeth, call Doc Johnny! Tell him we have a bad case of Klan fever, really bad! We'll be at his back door in ten minutes. Okay?"

"Okay," Mother says, steering us onto the walk. "Go!"

"Damn them," Daddy swears. "Damn those damn Crackers to hell!"

The truck engine growls and jerks into reverse down the driveway. As the front porch door slams behind us, two figures float in the bright sunlight now filling the stairwell. "Mother?" the boys call, sleepily scratching themselves.

"Ren, take Mitchell into the kitchen," she commands, waving them off to the back. She reaches for the phone to dial Doc Johnny and as she does so, lets me go. At my side, a dark, damp nose sniffs its concern; I feel myself sinking, sobbing into the furry softness of Buddy's neck.

Chapter 2

Our house is old, "turn of the century," my parents say. "New England saltbox in a Miss Scarlett petticoat," Doto always calls it, meaning the wide screened porches that flounce around the ground floor with the kitchen, like a bustle, in the back. When my parents bought it from old Mr. Swann, the house had two big bedrooms upstairs but, after Mitchell was born, they converted the broad side porch into a downstairs bedroom for themselves, with a smaller one in the back for me.

After Mr. Swann sold it to them, he just walked out, leaving his linens, china, dining room table, his piano in the living room--everything but his clothes--behind. Said he wouldn't need them where he was going. As it turned out, Daddy says, that piano was a lifesaver. When Daddy caught the polio, the summer I was born, playing the piano helped him regain the use of his right hand and most of his right arm. It also kept him from going nuts, he says. Still does.

Daddy glances at me when I enter the living room, but keeps on playing, nodding his okay to join him on the bench. He's dressed for the funeral in white shirt and dark tie; his suit coat hangs off the mantel, like a strange, coal-colored Christmas stocking.

Strangeness has descended on our house like a winter fog bank, blurring the lines between the last few days: Marvin's dead, gone forever, the words singsong in my head trying to convince my heart they're true; Doto here, finding everything in an uproar; Doc Johnny unable, or unwilling, to state the cause of death; Constable Watts shrugging it off as a jook-joint fight, stopping just short of calling Daddy a liar about Round Lake Road.

"Besides," the string-bean Cracker laughed, tall and rangy in his constable uniform, "everybody knows the Opalakee Klan don't kill niggers like they use to." Daddy came home fuming. "In the old days," he told us, meaning before the polio, "lawman or not, I'd have pretzeled that peckerwood." Before I was born, they say, my father had a torrential temper, huge as a hurricane, fast and physical. But the polio, he says, taught him patience. The man I know is more circumspect, with a temper that veers toward geological. When Daddy's upset, he turns to stone, granite-faced, flinty-eyed. Now, he sits rock-like at the piano, a one-man Mount Rushmore, fingering his thoughts.

The song "I am a poor wayfaring stranger" is one of the saddest in the Mayflower Baptist hymnal. We'll sing it on Palm Sunday, the week before we sing the happiest song, "Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph o'er His foes."

"Daddy," I ask him, "is it true, what Doto says about Richard Warren being called the Stranger?"

"Yes, honey. On the Mayflower, the Pilgrims were the Saints and they called the people like Richard Warren, whose company was paying for the voyage, the Strangers."

"When we studied them last fall, Mrs. Beacham said she never heard of such a thing."

"True story, Roo," Daddy says, fingertips teasing out the chorus.

"Doto says she's afraid she jinxed you by naming you after him."

"Maybe so, Roo. Sometimes I know exactly how he felt."

"Will the funeral last long?"

"Several hours, I guess. There's the service and the burial, then the gathering at Luther and Armetta's. Afterwards, there's a meeting with Reverend Stone and some elders."

"What about?"

"Options, Rooster."

"You mean about finding out who killed Marvin?"

"The Klan killed Marvin, Roo. The question is why. And what's to be done about it."

"But you've always said the Klan was nothing to be afraid of, just a bunch of good ol' boys playing boogey-man."

Daddy lifts his hands off the keyboard and drops them in a ball in his lap. His back, ramrod straight when he plays, curls forward, shoulders falling. The right one, his "polio shoulder," dips lower than the left. His chin juts forward in a craggy outcrop.

"Like Doto says, we are strangers in a strange land. The Klan's been around here for years--stupid stuff mostly, burning crosses, pestering couples parking in the dark, picking on Negroes they thought were getting uppity, whatever that means. But this week, they crossed the line."

"But May Carol's Daddy's in the Klan. May Carol says it's nothing but a card club, an excuse to play poker. And, Armetta works for them in their house!"

From the Hardcover edition.
Susan Carol McCarthy|Author Q&A

About Susan Carol McCarthy

Susan Carol McCarthy - Lay that Trumpet in Our Hands
Susan Carol McCarthy is the award-winning author of two novels, Lay That Trumpet in Our Hands and True Fires, and the nonfiction Boomers 101: The Definitive Collection. Her debut novel received the Chautauqua South Fiction Prize and has been widely selected by libraries and universities for their One Book-One Community and Freshman Year Read programs. A native Floridian, she lives in Carlsbad, California.

Author Q&A

To listen to Michigan State University’s One Book, One Community program interview with both the author and Evangeline Moore, the 77-year-old daughter of Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore whose murders by the KKK figure prominently in Lay That Trumpet In Our Hands, please visit http://spartanpodcast.com/?p=303.

Reader's Guide|About the Book|Author Biography|Discussion Questions|Teachers Guide

About the Book

The questions, discussion topics, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Susan Carol McCarthy’s LAY THAT TRUMPET IN OUR HANDS. We hope they will enrich your experience of this deeply affecting novel.

About the Guide

“To this day, my family is in disagreement as to precisely when the nightmare began. For me, it was the morning Daddy and Luther discovered Marvin, beaten, shot, and dying, in the Klan’s stomping grounds…. Mother and Daddy shake their heads. In their minds, the real beginning was much earlier.”

In this poignant, unforgettable novel, a riveting chapter of history is brought to life through the voice of a young girl coming of age in small-town Florida. Inspired by real-life events, this is the story of a northern family, a southern town, and a senseless murder that sparks an extraordinary act of courage.

In the spring of 1951, Reesa McMahon is awakened in the night to discover that her closest friend and mentor, nineteen-year-old Marvin Wiley, has been brutally killed by a member of the Ku Klux Klan. As violence erupts over the state, Reesa’s family, along with rising-star attorney Thurgood Marshall and the FBI, join together in a daring battle for justice. Fiercely honest and quietly assured, Reesa’s painful search to make sense of her town’s soul-destroying bigotry offers an exhilarating resolution to one of the darkest, most disturbing hours this nation has ever seen.

About the Author

Susan Carol McCarthy was born and raised in central Florida. A former advertising copywriter, she now lives in California and is at work on her second novel, which Bantam will publish.

Discussion Guides

1. LAY THAT TRUMPET IN OUR HANDS opens with an evocative description of
Florida as the “baby sister to the Belles.” What do these initial paragraphs indicate about the state’s economic and social history?

2. Before reading the novel, were you aware of the Ku Klux Klan’s activities in Florida during the first half of the twentieth century? Do you believe that race relations evolved differently in Florida than in the rest of the South?

3. In what ways do the McMahons embody Florida’s contradictions?

4. What characteristics does a young narrator impart to a tale as wrenching as Reesa’s? Which traits make her a particularly appropriate guide for us? How might the story have changed if told from her brother Ren’s point of view?

5. Do Reesa’s role models—her mother and father, Doto, Luther, and Armetta—provide her with contradictory or consistent messages about human nature? What are some examples?

6. In chapter nine, May Carol’s mother begs Armetta to return to her job in their household. What does this scene reveal about the balance of power between adults and children in Mayflower, and between blacks and whites? Were you surprised that Mr. Garnet made no effort to hide his KKK robe from Armetta?

7. Discuss the author’s many references to baseball. How does baseball enhance the novel’s plot and tone?

8. Religion figures prominently in LAY THAT TRUMPET IN OUR HANDS, from the Marvin’s lessons in Bible study to the horrific Klan bombings of Catholic and Jewish citizens. How do these myriad experiences shape Reesa’s understanding of God? How does her faith change throughout the book?

9. The Red Scare is an important historical backdrop for the novel. In what way did the Klan align itself with those who feared a Communist insurgency?

10. Whose “hands” are implied by the title, in your opinion? Who are their contemporary equivalents?

11. What does the correspondence between Reesa and Vaylie teach both girls about life outside their own families? What do the letters convey to us that isn’t disclosed in the main storyline?

12. Two background characters, Maybelle Mason and Lucy Garnet, add an interesting perspective to the role of women in Mayflower. In what way does each woman’s tragedy affect your understanding of this town?

13. The women of Luther’s “C.I.A.” were crucial to a courtroom victory. How do they compare to the novel’s other female characters?

14. The Florida landscape makes an intriguing backdrop for this novel, complete with a swimming hole restored at the book’s conclusion. Discuss the influence of setting on your imagination as you read LAY THAT TRUMPET IN OUR HANDS.

15. In her author’s note, Susan Carol McCarthy emphasizes the fact that the characters Reed Garnet, J.D. Bowman, and their families are completely fictional: “The real Klansmen who roamed the back roads and groves of our area, including those who were indicted by the federal grand jury, have their own stories. Which, of course, are theirs to tell.” What do you imagine those stories might say? What motivated this novel’s antagonists?

16. How did the civil rights movement affect your community?

17. Susan Carol McCarthy began writing this novel as a gift for her father, whose heroism in Florida inspired the character of Warren McMahon. Who are the Warrens and Luthers in your life?

Teacher's Guide


Please click on the PDF link below to download the Teacher's Guide.

You may also visit: http://susancarolmccarthy.com/disc.htm for more Educator Reviews.

Note to Teachers

Opening with the brutal lynching of nineteen-year-old Marvin Cully, Lay That Trumpet in Our Hands recounts the events of the Florida Terror–nine months, between 1951 and 1952, when the Ku Klux Klan enforced their will with reckless abandon. The story is told through the eyes of twelve-year-old Reesa McMahon, who is trying to make sense of her world as racial tensions escalate in her once-serene central Florida hometown of Mayflower. Most of the major events in the plot are based on historical fact.

As a literary work, the novel lends itself well to the analysis of literary elements such as plot, character development, and setting. The writer’s craft can be analyzed through the author’s ample use of literary techniques such as foreshadowing, metaphor/simile, personification, symbolism, and irony. Themes such as prejudice, family values, friendship, grief, coming-of-age, and faith are addressed throughout the novel.

As a work of social commentary, Trumpet can serve as a catalyst for discussions and activities in social studies classrooms about federal versus states’ rights and the presidential election process. Trumpet’s story unfolds in a time when Jim Crow laws were at the peak of their power in the Deep South, and a number of major players of the period, both on the national and world scene, are either mentioned or have an active role in this book: Harry Truman, the Axis of Evil (Hitler, Mussolini, Hirohito), Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, and Harry T. Moore. In many ways, Trumpet lays bare the deep-seated bitterness the South has held against the North since Reconstruction.

Students from sixth grade through the college level will find the reading and analysis of Trumpet a rewarding experience. Because the protagonist is twelve years old, she describes the events in her life through her pre-adolescent eyes; however, the plot is sophisticated in nature, making this book an equally valuable text for older readers.

About This Book
Lay That Trumpet in Our Hands is a fictionalized account of racially charged events that occurred in Florida during the Deep South’s Jim Crow era.

In the novel, Reesa’s father, Warren McMahon, is called on in the wee hours of the morning to help a distressed African American friend find his son, who failed to return home on time. Reesa’s father and his friend find the young man brutally beaten and fatally wounded on Klan land. Appalled by the brazen actions of the Klan and the total lack of action by local and state authorities, Reesa’s father begins a letter writing campaign to the FBI. Unfortunately, this campaign thrusts his whole family into harm’s way. As a man of principle, he must stand up for what is right and just; as a husband and father, his heart wrenches at the exposure to the rising tide of Florida Terror that his actions have brought upon his young family.

Trumpet can be utilized in both a language arts and a social studies classroom. The themes in this book, as described in the preceding Note to Teachers, can be covered in varying degrees depending on the age group. While the book is certainly suitable for sixth grade through the college level, one note of caution at the middle school level is the author’s use of some profane language in character dialogue. Though it is used sparingly and provides for credible characterization, some students and their parents may consider it inappropriate.

This novel is a powerful testament to the social upheaval brought about by the civil rights movement. A number of primary sources from the post-WWII and civil rights movements can be found at the History Matters Web site: http://historymatters.gmu.edu. These materials can be used to supplement the reading of the book.

About the Author
Susan Carol McCarthy is a novelist who lives in San Diego, California. Born in central Florida, she received a BA in English Literature from the University of South Florida, continuing on to work for the advertising division of Walt Disney World in Orlando and for ad agencies in Atlanta and San Francisco. She eventually established herself as a full-time freelancer in San Diego.

In 1991, Susan Carol McCarthy received from her father a package of startling newspaper clippings and other materials from a recently unsealed 1950s-era federal court case. In an accompanying letter, her father wrote that since the court-mandated forty-year seal had finally been lifted, he had chosen to deliver these materials to the “writer” in his family so that she could tell the story. The letter and other materials revealed a sordid, racially charged episode in Florida’s history, and they told of her father’s role in providing evidence to the FBI of the local Klan’s involvement.

The novel is as much a tribute to her father’s legacy as it is a historical account of the Florida Terror years. McCarthy incorporated her father’s experiences, countless hours of research, and the relationships she established in her youth with the African American employees of her father’s citrus business to write this poignant first novel that has evoked comparisons to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

Discussion and Writing


Readers are given an explanation of the social texture of Florida during the late 1940s and early 1950s.
1.What site is Florida known for at this time?
2.What is the “social equivalent of a Molotov cocktail”?
3.What do newlyweds buy from a “fast-talking agent”?

Summary, Chapters 1—11
This section begins with the slaying of Marvin Cully, a nineteen-year-old black man and Reesa McMahon’s friend. The killing polarizes the small community of Mayflower. Twelve-year-old Reesa has trouble making sense not only of the act, but of the community’s response to it. As the plot progresses, Reesa watches her father being drawn further into the conflict. Reesa begins questioning her faith as she becomes conscious of the world beyond her family–a world capable of punishing good and rewarding evil.

Chapter 1
4.What did Luther and Reesa’s father do early in the morning? Why couldn’t Reesa participate?
5.Why is Reesa’s grandmother called Doto?
6.Who is Emmett Casselton?
7.What is so unusual about Doto’s bedsheets? How are these sheets and her car illustrative of her personality?
8.Who is in the back of the truck? How did Reesa react? Why?

Chapter 2
9.What did Mr. Swann leave in the house after selling it to Reesa’s family?
10.What disease did Reesa’s father contract the summer she was born? What is its lasting effect?
11.Describe Constable Watts’s reaction to Marvin’s death.
12.What happens at the Lakeview Inn in Mount Laura? Why is it so shocking to Reesa?

Chapter 3
13.Why won’t the Constable investigate Marvin’s death?
14.To whom does Reesa’s father write a letter when requesting an investigation?

Chapter 4
15.How did Doto get Reesa to go to school after the funeral?
16.How did the bee get its stripes and its wings? Who told Reesa the story?
17.What does Reesa notice about May Carol’s hands? Why do you think they are in that condition?

Chapter 5
18.What is Reesa’s favorite part of Palm Sunday? How did Marvin help her?
19.Briefly describe the Lake County “business.”
20.Who is the New York NAACP attorney?
21.Why did the U.S. Supreme Court demand a retrial of the Groveland Four?

Chapter 6
22.What was “Dry Sink” once called?

Chapter 7
23.How does Luther get the sheet music for the St. Johns A.M.E. choir? Why does he get it this way?
24.Why wouldn’t Luther address Reesa’s parents simply as Warren and Lizbeth?
25.What new information about Marvin’s death is provided in this chapter?

Chapter 8
26.What is ironic about Reesa’s recurring dream in the beginning of this chapter?
27.How did Miz Sooky get her idea for an all-white garden?
28.What sign does Reesa notice for the first time? Why is she now noticing it?

Chapter 9
29.How does Lucy Garnet try to persuade Armetta to return to the Garnet house? Does it work? Explain why or why not.
30.Describe how Lucy Garnet is dressed. What does this tell you about her character?

Chapter 10
31.Who was named the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Most Valuable Player in 1949?
32.How did Marvin describe “the big deal about baseball” to Reesa?

Chapter 11
33.What does Luther pull out of his shirt pocket? Why is he so proud of it?
34.What is Harry T. Moore trying to get black people to do?
35.Who owns the lands on Round Lake Road and Winter Garden Road?
36.Describe the four documents Warren McMahon retrieves from the file in his office.

Summary, Chapters 12—18
Kindred spirits meet at the beginning of this section, and Reesa and Vaylie remain pen pals throughout the remainder of the novel. Also in this section, characters become more fully realized, mysteries are revealed, and Reesa recognizes that racial prejudice is more far-reaching than she previously thought.

Chapter 12
37.Why is Reesa’s first meeting with Miss Maybelle’s grandniece, Maryvale, a pleasant surprise?
38.Describe the rattler race.
39.How does Reesa’s father describe Florida?
40.Whose wedding plans did Reesa and Vaylie discover in the attic? Why is this discovery so heartbreaking?

Chapter 13
41.What did Reesa find interesting about Harry T. Moore in the first few pages of this chapter?
42.What else do we find out about Maybelle’s fiancé from Vaylie’s letter to Reesa?

Chapter 14
43.Describe the misunderstanding about the juice price between Reesa and the father of the twins.
44.What was Reesa’s reaction to being called a “Jew”? Why was she called that?
45.What name do the initials “J. D.” on the belt of the twins’ father represent? What does Reesa claim that he did?
46.What happens in Miami during the course of this chapter?
47.What do Harry Moore and Thurgood Marshall expect the FBI to do?

Chapter 15
48.What is ironic about the Fourth of July events described in this chapter?
49.Which ethnic groups are included in the Klan’s “trinity of hate”?
50.What comparison does Reesa draw with the recent bombings and her present relationships?
51.Which three wars has Reesa experienced as of July 14, 1951?
52.What good news is mentioned in this chapter?

Chapter 16
53.What happened at the Coral Gables Jewish Center in August?
54.How does Reesa know who is in the truck pursuing the rental car? Why is this ironic?
55.How did Luther find out who was in the car that is being chased? Who was it?
56.According to Warren, what does C.I.A. mean?

Chapter 17
57.What did the Orlando Klan blow up? Why did they target it?
58.Who is Reesa worried about the most in this chapter? Why?

Chapter 18
59.Describe the characters who Reesa compares to snakes a “whole lot meaner than the reptile kind.” Why does she feel this way?

Summary, Chapters 19—25
This section opens with faithful Jackie Robinson/Brooklyn Dodgers fans gathering around a TV at Tomasinis’ store to watch the Dodgers’ final pennant game against the New York Giants.The game’s outcome sets the tone for the following chapters in this section. Whatever was right in Reesa’s world becomes lost behind the wafting, sulfuric smell of dynamite fog. In the wake of senseless tragedy, her mother retreats behind a Poker Face, and Reesa worries that she will never return. In the midst of the confusion, voices of truth begin to be heard. Reesa’s father is among those voices.

Chapter 19
60.Why is it so upsetting that the Brooklyn Dodgers lose to the New York Giants?
61.Who does Reesa blame for the loss? Why?
62.Why do you think the author dedicates an entire chapter to baseball?

Chapter 20
63.Who recounts the events that occurred as Sheriff McCall transported Mr. Irvin and Mr. Shepherd from Raiford State Prison to Tavares? What happened?

Chapter 21
64.What happened in Miami on December 4, 1951? How long did it take? How much time was there between events? Describe the buildings.
65.Why does Reesa think that her mother is keeping her Poker Face on?

Chapter 22
66.What threats have Sal and Sophia received? Why did they receive them? What have they decided to do?
67.What is the content of the TV newscast? How does Reesa channel her anger?

Chapter 23
68.Describe the gentlemen in the “plain black Ford.” What are their physical characteristics? What are they wearing? For whom do they work?

Chapter 24
69.According to the rules, what is a shopkeeper supposed to do? Does Reesa approve? Why or why not?

Chapter 25
70.Who replaced Armetta at the Garnet house?
71.How do May Carol’s mother and Reesa’s mother interact differently with their daughters?
72.Why does Reesa throw the watermelon? What does Selma do?
73.What surprises Reesa’s father at the end of this chapter?

Summary, Chapters 26—32
Now that word is getting out on a national and international level that something is terribly amiss in the state of Florida, the FBI actively seeks to dismantle the Klan. Reesa’s father works with the FBI to curtail future Klan activities. A near-death experience jolts Reesa into reality about her family’s precarious situation. She now realizes that her family’s endeavor to bring Marvin’s killer(s) to justice has resulted in a struggle for her own family’s survival.

Chapter 26
74.Mr. Jameson says, “We’re operating in a bit of a vacuum here….” What does he mean?
75.Describe how Reesa responds to her mother’s scolding when Reesa overhears a private, adult conversation. How do her parents react to her response?

Chapter 27
76.How does Doto describe the McMahon family? Who is stronger?

Chapter 28
77.Who owns the grapefruit grove where Ren’s friend Petey lives?
78.What does Reesa realize after Ren’s encounter? Why is she finally afraid?

Chapter 29
79.Briefly describe the plan to raid the fishing camp.
80.How is Reesa’s father going to communicate the evidence he finds to Mr. Jameson?

Chapter 30
81.How does Armetta find out about the meeting at Lake Eola on Friday night?

Chapter 31
82.What does Luther mean when he asks in his prayer to “lay that trumpet in our hands”?
83.What happened in Ocoee? What did Armetta’s family do?

Chapter 32
84.Briefly describe the inside and outside of the fishing camp building.
85.Describe the contents in the secret compartment. Who owns the Bible?
86.What is Emmett Casselton’s title?
87.Why is one retrieved item more disturbing than the rest?

Summary, Chapters 33—40
The aftermath of Warren McMahon’s fact-finding mission causes major upheavals in the Klan. Their misdeeds are reported widely in newspapers, and the power of the Klan begins to fade. Even in this diminished state, however, the Klan is still dangerous: a serene Sunday brunch is disturbed by word that the Klan is seeking revenge against the McMahons.

Chapter 33
88.What is the difference between a state crime and a federal crime? Why is this important to those who are subpoenaed?
89.What happens to Lucy Garnet? Why?
90.Who does Reesa claim are the only ones suffering since Marvin’s death? Why?

Chapter 34
91.How do the presidential candidates’ tours of Mayflower differ? Why do you think the author describes these events?
92.Who won the Florida primary? Why was the vote closer than expected?

Chapter 35
93.What is the McMahon family’s “final nightmare”?

Chapter 36
94.How are Vaylie’s and Reesa’s situations similar? How do Vaylie’s mother and Reesa’s parents cope with their situations?

Chapter 37
95. How has the McMahon family’s routine changed?
96.With what federal crime is J. D. Bowman charged?

Chapter 38
97.Who is waiting for the McMahons when they return home from the restaurant?
98.What does Reesa’s father try to convince her mother to do? Why?

Chapter 39
99.Briefly describe Mr. McMahon’s actions in the chapter. What do they tell you about him?
100.What insights does Reesa have as she meditates in the oak tree?

Chapter 40
101.With whom does Reesa’s father speak? How does he guarantee the gentleman’s agreement?
102.How does the last sentence in the chapter indicate that the family’s troubles are over?

The final details of the Klan trial are wrapped up. Reesa returns from law school to attend a hometown funeral, and to discover that Mayflower is in the fruits of recovery from the Florida Terror. Secret friends reveal themselves via Marvin’s special sign.

103.Why didn’t the Klansmen go to jail?
104.What does Reesa’s father become to the local community? How is he paid?
105.What do you think Reesa means by the last sentence?

Suggested Activities
Language Arts
1.Create a graphic organizer that charts the personalities of the main characters.
2.Create a timeline of events in Lay That Trumpet in Our Hands.
3.Keep a journal that lists examples of some of the themes in the novel: prejudice, family values, friendship, grief, coming-of-age, faith. Select one theme and write an essay in which you describe the author’s perspective, and discuss why you agree or disagree with her perspective. Have these issues evolved in American culture in any way since the 1950s?
4.Compile a book of poetry based on the themes, implementing the literary techniques incorporated in the novel.
5.Investigate the author’s use of climate and weather to advance the story.

Social Studies

1.Look through current newspapers and area magazines for examples of hate crimes in your area and around the world. Write a short summary of the issues and discuss whether or not they are being resolved. Create a scrapbook of both the articles and the summaries.
2.Research historical figures in the book, and write about them in the form of an obituary. You may wish to choose from the following: Joseph Stalin, Emperor Hirohito, Benito Mussolini, Adolph Hitler, Estes Kefauver, Willis McCall, Harry T. Moore, Thurgood Marshall, Al Capone, J. Edgar Hoover, Walter Irvin, Sam Shepherd, Fuller Warren, or Harry Truman.
3.Research one or more of the following: the Groveland Four case; the Ocoee race riots; the December 4, 1952, bombings in Miami; or the December 25, 1951, murders of Harry T. and Harriette Moore. Create a period newspaper about the event(s). Include pictures.
4.On a Florida road map, locate the following places: Plymouth and Apopka (which McCarthy renamed Mayflower and Opalakee), State Route 441/The Orange Blossom Trail, Mt. Dora, Groveland, Tavares, Orlando, Eatonville, and Ocoee. Write a brief history of each.
5.Create a T-chart. Label one side “Federal Jurisdiction” and the other “State Jurisdiction.” List the crimes mentioned in this book in the appropriate category. Lead a class discussion about states’ rights versus federal government rights under the Constitution.

(book chapters in parentheses)
Prologue: Molotov cocktail
Chapters 1—11: bivouac (5) vestibule (6) cantata (7) tutelage (11)
Chapters 17—25: kudzu (17) whorls (18) cesspool (20) manifesto (24) simper (25)
Chapters 26—32: jurisdiction (33) subpoena (33) perjure (33) strident (33)
Chapters 33—40: Pinkertons (34) indictments (37)
In addition, what are polio and scarlet fever? How are they contracted?

Beyond the Book
The first three exercises can best be administered using multimedia options, such as: PowerPoint, Flash movies, IMovies, MovieMaker, and Google Earth projects.

1.Assign a global project in which students research a present-day social injustice and create a report.
2.Assign a research project in which students investigate life in their state during the 1950s. Have students compare/contrast their findings with life in Florida in the 1950s and create a report.
3.Have students research prominent African Americans or anti—hate crime activists in your area and create a report.
4.Form a civil rights (anti-hate) team in your school or community. For further ideas, visit http://partnersagainsthate.org.
5.Trumpet has been compared to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Ask students to read both and compare the actions of the two fathers as seen through the eyes of their offspring.
6.Have students examine the history of civil rights from Reconstruction to the 2007 Supreme Court rulings on school choice.
7.Poignant documentaries that highlight the civil rights era can be ordered from the Teaching Tolerance organization in Montgomery, Alabama. Visit their Web site at http://www.tolerance.org/teach/resources/index.jsp. An Order Form for free materials and videos is available on this site.
8.Students may also want to examine the life and times of civil rights martyr Harry T. Moore by watching Freedom Never Dies, produced and directed by Sandra Dickson and Churchill Roberts, and by reading Before His Time, by Ben Green.
9.Direct students to investigate the Florida Terror years using http://www.polk-fl.net/staff/teachers/tah/documents/floridaflavor/lessons/d-3.pdf or http://www.polk-fl.net/staff/teachers/tah/tahfloridaflavor.htm.

Other Titles of Interest

Before His Time, Ben Green
Blood Done Sign My Name, Timothy B. Tyson
A Land Remembered, Patrick Smith
Medical Apartheid, Harriet A. Washington
Mississippi Trial, 1955, Chris Crowe
Monster, Walter Dean Myers
Obasan, Joy Kogawa
Sundown Towns, James W. Loewen
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

About this Guide’s Writer
Judith Turner
teaches U.S. History at Terrace Community Middle School, Thonotosassa, Florida. She is also the TCMS Lead Teacher and Subject Area Leader for Social Studies. Her teaching experience is in middle grades language arts and social studies.

Download a PDF of the Teacher's Guide

  • Lay that Trumpet in Our Hands by Susan Carol McCarthy
  • April 01, 2003
  • Fiction - Literary
  • Bantam
  • $15.00
  • 9780553381030

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