This debut novel tells the story of Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I. who becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy. With her strict African American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel moves to a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring mixed attention her way. Growing up in the 1980s, she learns to swallow her overwhelming grief and confronts her identity as a biracial young woman in a world that wants to see her as either black or white. In the tradition of Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, here is a portrait of a young girl – and society’s ideas of race, class, and beauty.
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Quick Reasons: unique, poetic language that helps put us into the characters’ heads; well-written, non-linear plot; not a journey in way of plot, but a journey toward self-discovery and truth; there’s a lot of character growth (and some character regression)
This book tore my heart from my chest, twisted it into about a thousand knots, ate it like licorice…..and then spat it back out for me to retrieve! Not even an exaggeration. 2016, you’ve thrown some pretty spectacular reads my way so far! It’s only been three days, here’s hoping you don’t peter out anytime soon!
This is the third diverse read of the year for me. So far, I haven’t been let down yet, though I think this one’s my top favorite of the three. SHHH! Don’t tell the others; they’ll be upset.
My children are one half of black. They are also one half of me. I want them to be anything. They are not just a color that people see.
The language is absolutely beautiful. It’s got a quiet sort of poetry, a flair for individuality… throughout, no matter which section or point of view, I felt as if the narrator was speaking directly to me. Each of these voices—Rachel’s, Nella’s, Laronne’s, Brick’s—rings true to their personality and their journeys. Above all, they each get to tell their stories to the reader. While some, like Nella’s, are more distanced, they’re all sort of guiding the reader where Heidi W. Durrow wants them to end up.
The journey, while heartbreaking and at times tough to stomach, is so gorgeously done. This book is not for lovers of action stories or fast-paced plots; there’s a subtler, quieter discovery going on. Instead of a race to find a killer, or some complicated fight between good and evil…this is ALL about the discovery of self. Mostly Rachel’s—hers touches on so many hard-hitting, wise and important epiphanies. This is the sort of book I feel many people might relate to—the schism of morals discovered throughout are bound to teach readers about themselves along the way.
Heredity isn’t supposed to work backward. I think about these things: the way that science or math tells us certain things. Math can explain the reason there’s a one out of four chance that I’d have blue eyes. But it doesn’t explain why me. And science or math can’t explain what makes one person lucky, or what makes a person lucky enough to survive.
If you’re searching for a fluffy, light read…this is not it. It starts immediately on the deep, emotionally-charged feel train and it doesn’t let off the petal once. If you’re seeking a fast-paced, filled to the brim with action book…again, this is not it. There’s a type of drama happening, but it’s more focused on the characters and their journeys than on the plot. And I LOVED that about this book, the artful blend of humanity and growth Heidi W. Durrow wrote. The poetic beauty of the language, as well, helped to craft and mire these characters in my mind.
I would advise readers to take care: there are some heavy, triggering subjects broached in these pages. If you’re at all bothered by abuse, suicide, molestation, or bullying, you shouldn’t read this unless you know you can handle it. While the plot isn’t focused on action, a LOT happens in this read—it’s all done with sensitivity and maturity, but it’s not all easy to read through.
“Hey,” Brick says finally. “What did you wish?”
“I can’t tell you,” I say. But I think, If only Robbie had been a bird. If only we had been a family that could fly.
This book is the epitome of a life-ruiner. It will change how you look at the world, if you let it—and you should! I definitely recommend to lovers of diverse characters, journeys of self-discovery, and reads with an emotional punch. I will be thinking about this book for a LONG time to come; maybe you should give it a chance to break you, too!