Monday 6 February 2012

Oates, Joyce Carol "Black Girl/White Girl"

Oates, Joyce Carol "Black Girl/White Girl" - 2006

Genna Meade is the daughter of a radical activist lawyer, descending from a family with a large history of civil rights fighters. She is born into a highly political family. When she starts studying at a college which one of her forefathers founded, she shares her room with Minette, the "black girl of the story, the daughter of an eminent minister, very much settled in her faith as opposed to Genna who was brought up atheist. Minette becomes the target of racial attacks and Genna reminisces about their story 15 years later.

A highly interesting book, I love Joyce Carol Oates, and she didn't disappoint with this story. This is not just a story about racism, it's the story of girls growing up, following the way their parents started them on or turning into another direction.

From the back cover:
"Fifteen years ago, in 1975, Genna Hewett-Meade's college roommate died a mysterious, violent, terrible death. Minette Swift had been a fiercely individualistic scholarship student, an assertive - even prickly - personality, and one of the few black girls at an exclusive women's liberal arts college near Philadelphia. By contrast, Genna was a quiet, self-effacing teenager from a privileged upper-class home, self-consciously struggling to make amends for her own elite upbringing. When, partway through their freshman year, Minette suddenly fell victim to an increasing torrent of racist harassment and vicious slurs - from within the apparent safety of their tolerant, 'enlightened' campus - Genna felt it her duty to protect her roommate at all costs.

Now, as Genna reconstructs the months, weeks, and hours leading up to Minette's tragic death, she is also forced to confront her own identity within the social framework of that time. Her father was a prominent civil defense lawyer whose radical politics - including defending anti-war terrorists wanted by the FBI - would deeply affect his daughter's outlook on life, and later challenge her deepest beliefs about social obligation in a morally gray world.
Black Girl / White Girl is a searing double portrait of 'black' and 'white,' of race and civil rights in post-Vietnam America, captured by one of the most important literary voices of our time."

Find links to all my other Joyce Carol Oates reviews here.

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