The Hanging of Ruben Ashford
by Lauren Small
At the heart of Lauren Small’s soaring new novel is a murder mystery set in Baltimore in 1918, and the love of two remarkable women. Psychologist Josie Berenson defends a young Black man who has confessed to murder while her partner, Dr. Nell Winters confronts an influenza epidemic that rapidly kills thousands. Their search for justice and healing is complicated by a city riven by race, at a time when loving a member of your own sex is a crime. The path forward, they discover, is fraught with difficulty, but still offers reasons for hope. Delivered by a master story-teller, The Hanging of Ruben Ashford reveals fault lines in a great American city that still reverberate today.
With a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature, Lauren Small, a writer, is on the Faculty at the Johns Hopkins Hospital where she directs a program in narrative medicine, teaches in the health humanities, and runs a creative writing program for teens hospitalized on the psychiatry ward. She has a passion for social justice and for the history of Baltimore. The Hanging of Ruben Ashford is her third novel. At the heart of her new novel is a murder mystery set in Baltimore in 1918 which reveals fault lines in a great American city that still reverberate today.
“This book may bring tears to our eyes; it will heal you.” — Michael Salcman, Shades & Graces: New Poems
“Josie and Nell stare hard into “Baltimore’s divide.” There, as Nell says, we see how deeply that divide “ran through the human heart.” In Lauren Small’s gripping new novel, we cannot help but see how deeply it still does.” —Madeleine Mysko, Stone Harbor Bound
“Is hope a liability? A luxury? A refuge of the naive? The nature of hope – and its cost – is one of the questions underlying this smart and provocative murder mystery.” —Will Schwarz, president, Maryland Lynching Memorial Project
“Baltimore in 1918 emerges from Lauren Small’s talented pen with her exquisite use of language. With deep relationships that bridge social conventions, The Hanging of Ruben Ashford is filled with poignant revelations that will resonate long after the last page has been read.”— M.K. Graff, The Nora Tierney English Mystery Series