IMANI ALL MINE

African-American Porter (All-Bright Court, 1991) has again created a protagonist with her own voice and an affirming take on life in Buffalo’s inner city—where guns kill the innocent and where teenagers too often end up having babies. High-schooler Tasha, the 15-year-old narrator, tells her story with an authenticity that adds even more grit and realism to a tale that’s often a headline. She lives with her baby daughter Imani (meaning faith —in some African language—) and her mother Earlene. Imani looks just like Tasha, which makes Tasha, who doesn’t have much else of her own, rather happy. Her story builds quietly, almost off-handedly, to its tragic end as the girl describes her exhausting daily routine in the most matter-of-fact terms: not only must she care for Imani, but she also has to bring the baby along to school. While Imani is taken care of in the school’s daycare center, Tasha conscientiously attends classes. Her own mother, never married, was too busy with her boyfriends to comfort Tasha on the night she was raped at knife-point in a nearby park, and she was even too busy to notice (until labor began) that her daughter was pregnant. The rapist and father of Imani is a fellow student, a boy who, Tasha thought, —really liked— her (—As fat as I am. As black as I am—), which is why she left the Skate-A-Rama with him that evening. Now, thankfully, he doesn—t even seem to recognize her. Meanwhile, as she tries to build a life for herself and her newborn, Tasha records all of Imani’s milestones; nervously observes her neighbor’s drug-dealing; grudgingly grows fond of her mother’s white boyfriend Mitch; and stoically tries to keep up with her schoolwork. At end, random gunfire will break apart—for a time, it seems, almost completely—Tasha’s already fragile world. An unsparing, remarkably unsentimental tale of a typically unsung heroine. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 27, 1999

ISBN: 0-395-83808-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1998

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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