The Lynching of Louie Sam
Murder, racism, and injustice wreak havoc in a frontier town.
Between 1882 and 1968 there were 4,742 lynchings in the United States. In Canada during the same period there was one—the hanging of Louie Sam, a member of the Stó:lo tribe.
The year is 1884, and 15-year-old George Gillies lives in the Washington Territory, near the border with British Columbia. In this newly settled land, white immigrants have an uneasy relationship with the Native Indians. When George and his siblings discover the murdered body of a local white man, suspicion immediately falls on a young Indian named Louie Sam. George and his best friend, Pete, follow a lynch mob north into Canada, where the terrified boy is seized and hung.
But even before the deed is done, George begins to have doubts. Louie Sam was a boy, only 14—could he really be a vicious murderer? Were the mob leaders motivated by justice, or were they hiding their own guilt? As George uncovers the truth—implicating Pete’s father and other prominent locals—tensions in the town rise, and he must face his own part in the tragedy. But standing up for justice has devastating consequences for George and his family.
Inspired by the true story of the lynching, recently acknowledged as a historical injustice by Washington State, this powerful novel offers a stark depiction of historical racism and the harshness of settler life. The story will provoke readers to reflect on the dangers of mob mentality and the importance of speaking up for what’s right.
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“Readers will . . . be held by the mystery right up until the end. ”- Booklist, 12/12
“Stewart draws readers into the characters’ lives . . . This book would be a wonderful addition in libraries and classes that focus on issues and themes in American literature or American history. ”- VOYA, 10/12
“A compelling young adult novel . . . important themes are deftly developed; the tone never becomes preachy or pedantic . . . will appeal to teachers . . . perfect for the senior high school library. ”- The Deakin Review of Children’s Literature, 02/13
“A chilling, captivating novel about an innocent scapegoat, a searing injustice and the far-reaching damage secrets and lies do. ”- Canadian Children’s Book News, 11/12
“Congratulations to Elizabeth Stewart for recognizing the story’s importance, and for presenting it so well. Highly recommended. ”- CM Reviews, 09/12
“The way the different characters react to the pressures of a complex situation helps us understand more about human nature, which should allow us to be more critical about our own actions. ”- ALAN (Assembly for Literature for Adolescents of the NCTE), 05/14/13
“Stewart’s experience as a screen-writer enables her to create vivid characters and effective dialogue. ”- Resource Links, 12/12
“The plot moves quickly and should interest many readers, even those not usually drawn to historical fiction. ”- School Library Journal, 09/12
“This novel is a powerful fictionalization of a poignant story. ”- Library Media Connection, 04/01/13
“It’s one of the most powerful books I’ve read in years. ”- Ken Setterington, The Next Chapter, CBC Radio, 12/08/12