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A coming-of-age novel, set during 1968 in a midwestern college town, by the Flannery O—Connor Award—winning author of The Nature of Longing (1994). Eccentricity enjoys a long and honorable tradition among academic brats, but Tish Espy carries hers to fresh extremes. The daughter of a social-sciences professor at progressive Brazil University (read: Oberlin College) in Ohio, Tish rebels against her parents— liberal views on racial integration by refusing to mix socially—with whites, that is. Not only are all of Tish’s high school pals black, but Tish also secretly believes (or, at least, wishes) that she might be black herself. By 1968, of course, integration is for squares, and especially after the King assassination, Tish finds herself chanting along with James Brown, —Say It Loud, I—m Black and I—m Proud.— The fact that she’s self- evidently white is, naturally, lost on no one—not on her parents (who, for academics, hold strangely conservative views on race relations); not on the racist white farmboys who torment her at school; and least of all not on her black friends, who tease her as a —whitey— and suspect her of patronizing them. Tish’s quirk grows closer to an obsession when she falls for Goody, a black classmate. The usual agonies of teenaged love are multiplied by Tish’s sense of alienation from her family and by her desire to belong to a culture that is vastly different from hers. On the brink of graduation, she must decide how she’s going to live; and her inability to accept the future for which her background has prepared her makes both the woman and her story turn strangely aimless (and lugubrious). Basic adolescent angst, dressed up with racial obsessions, to no obvious end. Some Seventeen-ish prose also hurts (—There were places on her body she—d never known existed, all coming alive under Goody’s hands—).

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-385-48944-7
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1998