Review: CALEB’S WARS by David L. Dudley

TITLE: Caleb’s Wars
AUTHOR: David L. Dudley
GENRE: Young Adult, Historical
PUBLISHED: Clairon (Oct 25, 2011)
FIND ON: Amazon


A powerful novel about growing up black on the World War II home front in the Jim Crow South. Caleb lives in a world at war. War news is on everyone’s mind, and Caleb’s older brother, Randall, is likely to be sent overseas. The presence of German POWs in Caleb’s rural Georgia community is a constant reminder of what’s happening in Europe. Locked in a power struggle with his domineering father and fighting to keep both his temper and his self-respect in dealing with whites, Caleb finds his loyalties shifting and his certainties slipping away. This coming-of-age story, set in a time before the civil rights movement emerged, traces one young man’s growing commitment to justice and to the courage needed to protect it.


Georgia Southern literature and philosophy professor, David L. Dudley, released his second book this week called, “Caleb’s Wars.” This historical fiction novel is about 15-year-old Caleb, who is a colored boy growing up in the Jim Crowe south. I couldn’t put this book down once I started. I love the teenage affliction of too many feelings that they don’t know what to do with them. Caleb had my heart from the beginning. He’s a good kid but his deep sense of justice compels him to vandalize and sneak out at night. Caleb is a very compelling character who makes this book an instant triumph.
Caleb’s brother is in the army and is eventually shipped off to fight overseas as they ship German POWs into their small town. Caleb doesn’t know how to feel about having to work side by side with a German POW, the enemy who seems to hate the Nazi’s as much as he does. Based before the civil rights movement began, this novel shows the deep cruelties to blacks in the south during war time and the blatant inequality. They are even categorized beneath German prisoners, all because of complexion.
“Caleb is also fighting his own personal wars, against whites, against his domineering, angry father, and even—in a way—against God.”
What’s even more interesting about “Caleb’s Wars” is the supernatural element. During his baptism one day, Caleb hears a voice he believes to be God’s. He thought maybe his friend was playing a trick on him but soon learns he was able pray healing over two very different people. This extra layer of intrigue made the book, for me because it showed that in God’s eyes, we’re all important.


I’d rate this book as totally worth the time to read, 4: Very Good. The story was well told and the characters were complex. I could feel every emotion and enjoyed it thoroughly.
Caleb’s dad really got to me with his over-controlling nature. I wanted to run away. I wanted to fight, I wanted to vandalize. The frustration of the story built and built until Caleb couldn’t stand it any longer. I love when people actually stand up for themselves. Go Caleb!


I talked with David L. Dudley recently and he shared where he came up with the story idea: 

“I read of incidents in which black soldiers in uniform were denied service in restaurants in the South. In one case, these soldiers were escorting German prisoners of war on a train, probably taking them to a prison camp. The prisoners were allowed to eat in the dining car, but the soldiers were refused service. Such discriminatory treatment—our enemies get the privilege of eating because they’re white, while our own soldiers can’t eat because they’re black—made my angry, and I decided to make it the subject of a new novel.”

*Also an article in Connect Statesboro on November 15, 2011*