BLUE AS THE LAKE by Robert B. Stepto

BLUE AS THE LAKE

A Personal Geography
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A memoir by an African-American college professor (English and Afro-American Studies/Yale) that is a both a summertime boyhood idyll and a jarring coming-of-age tale. The Stepto family is headed by a well-to-do obstetrician father and is well-grounded in American upper-middle-class values acquired at Spellman College. And nothing is more normal and American than the vivid descriptions of the all-black Great Lakes resort of Idelwild, Mich., where they spend their summers. The conflicts between the quieter, more conservative older generation and their kids, who engage in some dangerous lakeside showboating (recklessly driving yachts), will sound familiar to many readers whose family had a summer place. Much of this memoir is a warm and nostalgic reverie, boy-into-man stuff: there’s the first girlfriend and frantic petting by the lake, a summer fling with an out-of-town girl that peters out in the mail “by Thanksgiving.” At the end of every season the house is boarded up, and the author makes us feel the preciousness of these endless childhood summers when the vacation house is eventually sold (along with his father’s dream of retiring in Idlewild). Summers felt more endless as the author’s family forced him to read for hours each day. When his friend Mike came over and rejected games to enjoy all the reading material, Stepto’s family nodded approvingly and believed that “thanks to Mike, the race’s fate was in good hands.” Race emerges as a significant theme, as the author is too black for white racists (like the ones who refuse to serve his boy scout troop in a restaurant) and too light-skinned for some blacks Visiting his former home in South Chicago brings back memories of playing stickball. At one game a bully wouldn’t pick him, teasing him about being too white. Stepto is too proud to —pass,— like one of his relatives did, and this memoir rebuilds a rock-solid island in the past that he can retreat to whenever being African-American feels like too much of a conundrum.

Pub Date: Sept. 21st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8070-0944-X
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Beacon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1998