A novel of resonant stories that combine to form a powerful meditation on race.


Kraft’s debut novel explores the nuances of race, color, sex and identity while telling the stories of several women in three close families.

African-American Grace Brown and Polish immigrant Mrs. Elliott live in the same Columbus, Ohio, apartment building. Mrs. Elliott’s own children are grown, but she helps look after Grace’s daughters and son. She’s a good friend to Grace, whose white husband abruptly abandoned her and their children a few years earlier. Grace’s daughters, Becky and Leah, are younger than Mrs. Elliott’s oldest daughter, Margo, but they befriend Keisha, Margo’s 22-year-old adopted daughter. Similarly, Keisha makes friends with Emma and Jennifer Douglas, the mixed-race children of Margo’s friends, and they become her surrogate sisters. The children eventually grow up and start their own lives, but the entire clan reunites to support Keisha when she’s put on trial for the murder of a young white man. Since Keisha has very dark skin, the varied members of her multiracial extended family fear the trial’s outcome. Kraft tells each of the characters’ stories through detailed vignettes set in different times and places, but they all maintain a sense of interconnectedness. The author’s prose is often skillful, although some readers may find that she relies too much on similes; however, her astute, expressive imagery makes up for this flaw (“her wild mane of hair fluffs around her head, an effect softened only by a wide multi-colored headband, so that she seems a cross between a washerwoman and an African queen”). Although the book addresses issues such as motherhood, sexuality and self-awareness, its primary focus is skin color and what its spectrum means to those who fall within its many nonwhite shades. Some readers may feel that the many specific descriptions of characters’ skin colors seem repetitious; however, by using this device, Kraft refuses to allow readers to forget, even for a moment, about the impact of color in today’s society. Overall, she has produced a novel that’s certain to inspire and inform much-needed discourse.

A novel of resonant stories that combine to form a powerful meditation on race.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-0741499905

Page Count: 346

Publisher: Infinity Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2014

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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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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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