REVIEW: A Different Drummer

Alicia Narum

Wyatt Dodds

It’s June of 1957 in a fictional state in the South; the remaining residents of Sutton frantically gossip trying to understand the recent events which suddenly made all African American residents in the state pack up their bags and move North. While none of the white citizens know precisely what caused them to leave, the people of Sutton will all say it started with Tucker Caliban. 

William Melvin Kelly’s “A Different Drummer” is a thrilling novel that takes you through the minds of different white residents in Sutton as they recall stories of Tucker, the outlandish events unfolding, and try to piece together what caused all Black residents to leave.

Throughout the book, Kelly calls on readers to reflect upon ideas of leadership, courage, systemic racism, and faith in one’s self. One of the things I most enjoyed about “A Different Drummer” is that these topics are mostly shown through the characters’ actions and are rarely blatantly stated, letting the reader come to their conclusions. 

Another element I enjoyed about “A Different Drummer” is the unconventional protagonist Tucker Caliban. Described as uneducated, short, and quiet with a high-pitched voice, Tucker does not fit the typical leader archetype. He is incredibly self-assured though, and his actions in the book were never to start a movement, but to do what he felt needed to be done. 

What makes Tucker Caliban’s character so exciting and the novel so intriguing is while other characters in the book had talked and written about wanting change, Tucker acted, and his actions were so powerful he started a movement without saying a word. 

I highly recommend “A Different Drummer” to anyone who enjoys books that challenge readers to reflect and look at new perspectives. Only 205 pages, “A Different Drummer” is a moderately tricky read. 

I also recommend reading the foreword version of the book by David Bradley, author, and writer of the “Chaneysville Incident.” Bradely offers thoughtful insight into Willaim Kelly’s life, the time this book was written, Black Literature, and why “A Different Drummer” is considered a “new chart of American Literature Mainstream.”