What put a white cop and a black youth on a tragic collision course? On a frigid winter’s night in 1973, William “Rabbit” Wells, a young man of mixed race, was shot and killed by a white policeman named William Sorgie outside a bar. The shooting stunned the placid, prosperous communities of New York. For twenty-five years author William Loizeaux, who went to high school with Rabbit, hasn't been able to let go of a story that struck at the core of the place that he, along with Rabbit and Sorgie, called home. With clear-eyed compassion and unsparing honesty, The Shooting of Rabbit Wells recreates the lives of both victim and killer and the forces that brought them together. By giving us the life of Rabbit Wells, Loizeaux makes us understand—and feel—how unacceptable and irreparable his loss was, and how deeply the bullet that killed him is lodged in the American identity.
The Sexy Nerd's Review...
I saw this book deal on Bookbub a while back and I thought this would be a great read for Black History Month. I was anxious to start reading it because I was intrigued by the nice-looking young man on the cover. I was determined to find out who this man was and what he meant to this world at one time.
Like so many tragic endings of young African American men, unfortunately for William “Rabbit” Wells, he was the start of many more young lives being snuffed out by some trigger-happy police officer. But his life wasn’t the first and as we already know, he certainly will not be the last, suffice it to say.
I’ve read countless stories like this and it never ceases to amaze me how as I’m reading the words of a human being about to become deceased; I wish I could somehow alter the story so that this person would be able to continue to live. It brings such a huge sense of helplessness, anger and sadness. Hmm, this may lead some of you to wonder why on earth would I read stories like that, if it causes me to have so many emotions? The answer is simple, I want to be educated in knowing what makes human’s tick and how split-second decisions can be the difference between life and death. So many times, we hear these horrendous stories and immediately pass judgment of guilt or innocence, but in these types of moments, it’s not always as clear as one might think.
Rabbit’s life was cut short by a misunderstanding. There were so many forces working against this young man more than fifty years ago. He was guilty, like so many after him, of being at the wrong place and the right time—that time signifying their departure from this earth. God calling his children home. It leaves the rest of us pondering why? The author did his best to answer this question, especially since he knew of the victim. He grew up around Rabbit and went to school together. And therein lies where my issues with this story begins. In fact, I had quite a few issues with this book.
Before I begin, I, in no way, wanted to minimize this brother’s existence, but the fact of the matter is, this story really should have been no more than twenty pages long. Loizeaux didn’t know enough about Rabbit’s life to make a full novel out of it. So, what does he end up doing? He surmises what Rabbit was thinking and feeling in order to fill up the pages. I’m sorry, but that, to me, isn’t doing Rabbit’s life justice. Through his own findings as he takes the reader along, he admits he didn’t know enough and took many creative licenses in the telling of Rabbit’s short life span. That rubbed this reader the wrong way.
What also struck me as odd is his constant description of Rabbit. And I need for you to stay with me here so that what I’m saying is very clear. Rabbit was of mixed race. Anyone looking at the cover of this novel can clearly see he’s of lighter skin, but you can also tell he has black in him. Loizeaux mentioned a lot about how dark Rabbit was. To be fair, seeing as how the author is white, to him Rabbit appeared darker, but trust and believe, that brother was not dark skinned. When I think of chocolate men, Wesley Snipes comes to mind. Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs, Blair Underwood, to name a few. If you’re not familiar with those African American actors, please look them up. What will become very evident is when you see them and then look at Rabbit, you be the judge on who is “dark” skin. I didn’t like that he depicted him as some overbearing dark figure that all the kids in their white neighborhood were terrified of. Why? Because he was taller and had a muscular physique? An Afro which surrounded his head like a halo? Really? Another thing that struck me as odd was his brutally honest description of some of the people he went to school with that knew Rabbit and he later interviewed. Let’s just say he didn’t describe everyone in a positive light. If I were the one he was describing in the manner in which he did for some of them, I would have been extremely offended. I assume those individuals read his words and were okay with it? It seemed like he was throwing low-key shade at some of them.
Overall, this story wasn’t a bad read. Loizeaux has quite the imagination and I would love for him to author a fictional story because I’m positive he’d be able to hold my interest. He’s a brilliant writer. You cannot deny his writing chops. From his vocabulary and his due diligence in his pursuit and investigation of his long ago school friend, Rabbit. I appreciate what he tried to do with this story, I truly do, but it just wasn’t what I was expecting. Again, when reading stories like this, you have to have so much more information than what Loizeaux was working with, otherwise, you’ll end up with the version that was put before us here.
However, having said that, Loizeaux did an exceptional job in bringing Rabbit to life. After having read his story, I feel a connection to him although we clearly were in a different time and space. It’s apparent that Rabbit touched the lives of many he came into contact with. Obviously so with Loizeaux having taken the time to write about a young black man who died too soon. Like Loizeaux, I wonder what would have become of Rabbit’s life? I imagine he would have had children and became the medical photography he was grooming himself to be. There are so many what if’s and what should have been, but we’re left with wondering and questioning. His nickname was appropriate because his life was cut short fast. Funny how those things work out sometimes.
The Sexy Nerd gives The Shooting of William “Rabbit” Wells four stars. I wish Rabbit could have lived and that the officer who shot him would have had some accountabilities put forth to him, but as with most cases surrounding the murders of African American men, this story, unfortunately, wasn’t any different than the ones you read and hear about today over fifty years later. Wow! What exactly does that say about us as a society? Very scary stuff. Until next time, Nerds, you know how we do!
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