GIRL IN THE MIRROR by Natasha Tarpley


Three Genereations of Black Women in Motion
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An absorbing memoir of three generations of African-American women. In a rumination on the lives of women and how those of generations are interwoven, Tarpley looks to the stories of her mother and grandmother to make sense of her own. Tarpley, editor of Testimony: Young African-Americans on Identity and Self-Discovery (1995), writes most powerfully when she assumes her grandmother’s imagined persona as a young wife facing her loneliness when her husband leaves her behind during the Great Migration; ultimately she decides to follow him from Alabama to Chicago before he sends for her. Her mother’s story—also told through her voice as Tarpley imagines it—is equally affecting; she decides to leave Chicago for Boston after the death of her husband of many years. It’s clear that Tarpley feels a deep sense of connection to her mother’s and grandmother’s history and needs to reimagine it. Her own story—memories of childhood and her own quest for love—is adequately told but it doesn—t have the same impact. The stories of her mother and grandmother are narrated with an almost novelistic quality and are so engrossing that when her own contemporary voice is introduced the reader feels jolted out of a reverie. Tarpley’s story—in many ways about coming to terms with becoming a woman—is more self-conscious. She is a young writer, in her 20s, and her history is still unfolding. On coming to terms with her grandmother’s death at the end of the book, she writes, “I learned from my grandmother that struggle and freedom do not come only in grand and romantic pronouncements, but are as natural as breathing, as ordinary as making sure there are fresh-smelling sheets on the bed.— It’s a strong legacy, wisely recognized. A graceful and personal telling of a young woman’s search for connections.

Pub Date: June 22nd, 1998
ISBN: 0-8070-7202-8
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Beacon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1998