A refreshingly intelligent coming-of-age story unveils a strong black woman protagonist who confronts personal and political issues in the ’60s and ’70s. The life and times of Della Morgan, who in childhood came to Brooklyn from the West Indies, is the tale of a woman’s journey to wisdom and also a subtle status report on race. Her father Duncan, whose 1965 murder by police leads to a riot, talked almost constantly of race. And, as the darkest member of her family, Della has felt like an outsider from the beginning, an observer not always likely to judge others kindly. Duncan’s death only makes the 16-year-old Della angry. A love affair with high-school classmate Gregory, a good student and musician, offers only temporary solace and ends with an abortion. Working in Manhattan, Della meets up again with Gregory and his older friend Sam, a Puerto Rican. She moves in with Sam, who, like Gregory, is a student; he gets Della a job—and free tuition—at Columbia. There she looks on as the protest movements of the 60’s flower. Sam is imprisoned for bombing a police station—and their affair ends. Della never fully embraces Sam’s politics—to her his views seem self- indulgent, disconnected from reality. By 1984 she’s part-owner with Gregory of a research business, but she still feels alienated. Only when Sam is released, his son Ben is killed in Mississippi, and Della learns the truth about the role of Sam’s former girlfriend, the WASP Claudia, in Sam’s arrest does she begin to feel whole and able to love fully. Even so, Della must survive a terrible car accident before she can help Gregory find the music in him that will bring the two of them together again. A baggy plot that’s sometimes hard to track, but the remarkable woman at its core helps keep things on a sure footing.