RAINBOW JORDAN by Alice Childress
Kirkus Star


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Rainbow Jordan is just 14, still fiercely devoted to her attractive 29-year-old mother Kathie, a sometime go-go dancer, even though Kathie has gone off again and left her with the rent due. Now, the utilities are turned off and Rainbow, as she has been during Kathie's other temporary absences, is placed in the home of Mrs. Josephine Lamont (Miss Josie, to Rainbow), a resolutely genteel black woman in her fifties whose husband has just left her for another woman. As she waits for the social worker to take her to Miss Josie's, and then waits at Miss Josie's for her mother's return, Rainbow remembers Kathy's previous absences, her irresponsible behavior, and her doomed attempts to ""be a good mother."" She remembers, too, previous visits to Miss Josie: one was on the occasion of her first period, when Miss Josie awkwardly launched the obligatory mother-daughter talk and ended up (""Go, you doin fine, Miss Josie,"" Rainbow encourages) advising Rainbow to ""let mother nature know who's boss."" Rainbow is ready to forgo that advice during her present stay, when she resolves reluctantly to give in to her boyfriend's demands for sex. But she is saved by the bell--or, perhaps, by a siren, Eljay's new girlfriend--and, with Miss Josie's support, she becomes surer and firmer in her own direction, independent of both Eljay and her unreliable mother. The story is told mostly from Rainbow's viewpoint but with chapters also by Kathy and Josephine, and it's one of Childress' many virtues that all the characters command our sympathy. We meet Miss Josie as an overly appearance-conscious middle-class priss and come to know her as a deeply caring person, still proud at the end but disillusioned with her petty vanities. Even Kathy, whom Rainbow must and does learn to see in a colder light, is more a victim than a villain. This is not as strong as or as textured as J Hero Ain't Nothin But a Sandwich (1973), but it's every bit as human.

Pub Date: April 15th, 1981
Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan