Like a lady. That's how I stepped onto that train."" So says Dorine Davis as she rides away from 1920s Jim Crow Alabama;...

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A MEASURE OF TIME

Like a lady. That's how I stepped onto that train."" So says Dorine Davis as she rides away from 1920s Jim Crow Alabama; away from ""Mama,"" who sent her scouring for white folks at eight (with rape at age ten); away from the baby called ""Son,"" to be raised by Dorine's sister as her own. And where is Dorine off to instead? To ""a grand place, Harlem. Fabulous! Elegant Avenue, Seventh Avenue."" Strutting lovely, with heels clicking, Dorine embraces the glitter of black Harlem-its silky swank, its marble lobbies and intellectual ""world-changers."" She teams up with a hustler/ dreamer who soon cheats her and eels away. (Nonetheless, ""I dug his style."") With a family-style gang of ""boosters,"" Dorine pulls off store heists with class; she's soon rolling in money. But ""being poor and black went so natural together, it made the tightrope of having goddamn slippery."" And, despite the champagne highs, Dorine's feelings threaten to mess her up: feelings about family back in Montgomery, about fat little Son; feelings about worthy men--like West Indian millionaire Big H. who visits Washington to help his people. . . and about loud-laughing, handsome Harry. Dorine gropes for permanence: ""Why not? Feelings. That's what moves me."" So Harry and his daughters move in. But Harry will eventually succumb to madness; white rackets move in; Dorine serves five years in jail. When she's set free, in the Forties, Harlem is no longer that place ""where we breathed into each other""; only the ghosts of the big-timers remain among the slums, eyeless buildings, junkies and winos. After a failed last attempt at Family, an older Dorine is seen rearing up Seventh Avenue, ""once the grandest, damndest avenue,"" as she snaps out: ""Who the fuck is Martin Luther King?"" From the veteran author of outstanding juveniles: a restless, gritty, earthy narrative which encompasses flowering and decay--in one woman's life, but also in the brief blooming of the place-and-people that was Harlem's heyday.

Pub Date: June 1, 1983

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1983