Train Whistle Guitar
Set in 1920s Gasoline Point, Alabama, a fictitious town based on author Albert Murray’s hometown of Magazine Point, Train Whistle Guitar is a coming of age story of Scooter, a young black boy who with his friend Little Buddy, learns about life by hopping a train, wandering the woods, listening to grownups at garden fences and fireside circles, hiding underfoot at the barbershop, or perching in trees at night to watch dancing in the jook joint. In each of these settings, Murray not only captures the feel of African American kinship within a small town in the South, but the experience of children who are raised not just by their parents, but by an entire community. Regardless of blood relationships, all of Scooter’s elders in Gasoline Point play the role of Auntee or Uncle.
While Train Whistle Guitar certainly has moments and undercurrents of racial tension, the book is gentle and showed love instead of hate, eagerness instead of anger. Murray is skillful in evoking the Alabama bayou and the thickets that skirt it, along with the 1920s jook joints.