LILIANE

RESURRECTION OF THE DAUGHTER

Poet, playwright, and novelist Shange (Betsey Brown, 1985, etc.) offers a portrait of a young black woman's growing-up in her characteristic confessional-mosaic style, but with a deeper and more contemplative cast than in her earlier works. Liliane Lincoln was raised as a child of privilege in the Eastern Seaboard's upper-middle-class black community, the daughter of a judge who expected her to attend a good university, marry well, and carry on the struggle for respectability in a racist world. Though she has indeed become an intelligent, passionate visual artist, Liliane finds herself still struggling to untie the psychic knots engendered by her father's defensiveness, the fears and prejudices of her social milieu, and, most importantly, the death of her beautiful mother when Liliane was a child. Only through a series of probing therapy sessions does Liliane begin to realize that her mother didn't die but left her family for a white man, and that her father preferred to pronounce his wife dead than to acknowledge this fact. Liliane's sessions with her therapist alternate with the colorful, impressionistic recollections of her best friends: Bernadette Reeves, a scrappy New Jersey girl who describes Liliane's high-class social life with a mixture of envy and outrage; Roxie Golightly, a Southern belle who dreams of a rich husband but is murdered by her Cuban lover; Lollie Malveaux, Liliane's earthy cousin, who views the secretive Lincoln family with healthy skepticism; and Lollie's sister, Hyacinthe, whose vengeful fantasies of murdering white ``crackers'' land her in an asylum. Liliane adds her own vivid evocations of such former lovers as Jean-RenÇ, a luscious Guadaloupean concert pianist; Victor-JÇsus Mar°a, a Puerto Rican with radical political views; and Sawyer Malveaux III, a rebellious son of old Creole money who is shot to death in East St. Louis. The result is a multifaceted portrait of a complex young woman—and a multicultural generation—coming of age in America. Flamboyant, passionate, and richly textured—an original and memorable work. (First printing of 85,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 1994

ISBN: 0-312-11310-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1994

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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