Test Ride on the Sunnyland Bus
Ana Maria Spagna
Test Ride on the Sunnyland Bus chronicles the story of an American family against the backdrop of one of the civil rights movement’s lesser-known stories. In January 1957, Joseph Spagna and five other young men waited to board a city bus called the Sunnyland in Tallahassee, Florida. Their plan was simple but dangerous: ride the bus together—three blacks and three whites—get arrested, and take their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Fifty years later Ana Maria Spagna sets off on a journey to understand what happened and why.
Spagna travels from her remote mountain home in the Pacific Northwest to contemporary Tallahassee, searching for the truth of the incident and her father’s involvement. Her journey is complicated by the fact that her father never spoke of the Sunnyland experience and died unexpectedly when she was eleven. Seeking out the other bus riders, now in their seventies, Spagna tries to make sense of their conflicting stories. Her odyssey becomes further troubled by the sudden diagnosis of her mother’s terminal cancer.
Winner of the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction prize, Test Ride on the Sunnyland Bus deftly weaves cultural and personal history, memoir, and reportage in this fascinating look at a family and a nation’s past.