Tate returns to the scene of The Secret of Gumbo Grove (1987), now with the other side of African-Americans' sometimes reluctant search for pride in their heritage. In the excellent earlier book, young Raisin's persistence was rewarded by renewed interest in a past symbolized by a neglected but historic cemetery in his Carolina community. Here, fourth-grader Mary Elouise's dissatisfaction with being black has caused hex to seek the friendship of Brandy, a snooty, rich, white girl, in preference to her real friends--and even to spurn the black doll her beloved grandmother has given her. The racist assumptions of a white teacher and Mary Elouise's family's casual but constant references to skin color exacerbate her low self-image. Her turnaround is sparked by a black teacher; by a visiting author-storyteller; by the forthright stories of the grandmother; by an incident that finally makes Brandy's underlying contempt clear; and especially by the black-history segment of a school program. Tate's characters are three-dimensional and believable; their dialogue and interaction are authentic and deftly drawn. But her didactic purpose--although certainly worthy--weighs down a story with only the slightest of plots, making it more a fictionalized essay on the causes and cures of black racism than a novel. Earnest but flawed.