Former Essence magazine arts-and-entertainment editor Little offers an uneven first novel about a contemporary African-American relationship set among elite black professional circles in New York. Alice Andrews, a twenty-something Mt. Holyoke scholarship graduate, is living in Manhattan but still working--as a newspaper reporter--in Newark, where she grew up in a just-barely middle-class neighborhood. Having ditched upwardly mobile buppie boyfriend Miles, Alice has started dating socially formidable Jack, a Harvard Medical School-trained physician descended from an aristocratic family of black Boston doctors and socialites. Because of Alice's education and smart style, Jack assumes that she, too, is a member of the old black bourgeoisie, so Alice keeps her parents, former neighborhood, and, most of all, brilliant but troubled older brother Lucas out of sight. (She has another reason for staying clear of Lucas: He sexually abused her when she was ten years old, something she has never told anyone.) The episode of abuse has left Alice insecure, wary of intimacy, and alienated from her hardworking but distant parents. When Lucas commits suicide, Alice's identity anxieties erupt and she flees Jack's Upper East Side apartment, where she's been living, for wise old Aunt Thelma's house in Cape May. There, Alice reveals her childhood secret and comes to terms with her past but still faces an imperfect future: She gets back to New York to find that Jack has slept with an uppercrust former girlfriend and gotten her pregnant, just as if they were kids from the 'hood. Alice marries Jack, newly aware that social class is no protection and that identities are made, not born or bought. Little's thematic reach exceeds her literary grasp by a mile, and her novel--part personal journalism, part sociological tract, part shopping guide for the socially mobile--intrigues but doesn't fulfill.