Nellie Lee Love moves north with her family to Chicago -- the land of opportunity -- hoping to escape the racism of the rural south. Mamma believes a new start will help Nellie Lee's sister Erma Jean, who stopped speaking after a mysterious but horrifying event only she witnessed. Though life in this northern city is exciting, Nellie Lee sees that racism knows no boundaries. When a group of boys threaten Nellie Lee, Erma Jean finds her voice just in time to fend them off. Through the love of their family, both sisters learn that they possess the strength to triumph.