Deeply rooted in the African-American experience, yet filled with insights that resonate for anyone seeking to make a better...

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TAKE ONE CANDLE, LIGHT A ROOM

From National Book Award finalist Straight (Highwire Moon, 2001, etc.), a searing, ultimately redemptive novel about America’s legacy of racial violence and a woman’s struggle to forge her own identity.

FX Antoine is a successful travel writer, based in Los Angeles when she’s not jetting around the world for Vogue and Travel + Leisure. Sixty-two miles away in her hometown of Rio Seco, she’s simply Fantine, daughter of one of five black girls sent from rural Louisiana to live in California after the local plantation owner raped three of them in 1958. Her great-great-great-grandmother was also raped by a white man (A Million Nightingales, 2006), and slavery’s heritage of forced miscegenation is visible in Fantine’s mocha skin, which keeps her professional contacts guessing about her background, to her sardonic amusement. White people who look at her godson Victor see only a threatening black man, even though he’s managed to graduate from community college with honors despite growing up with a crack-addicted mother: Glorette, Fantine’s childhood friend, murdered five years before the novel begins in late August 2005. Fantine wants Victor to apply to four-year colleges, but the bright, reflective young man is implicated in a shooting while hanging out with some bad-news friends, and they flee to Louisiana. Fantine feels she’s failed Victor, just as she’s alienated the tightly knit Rio Seco community by getting an education and moving into the wider world. The ties of kinship remain strong, however, and Fantine heads to Louisiana in search of Victor with her close-mouthed father, who has his own history of violence provoked by white brutality. In a slam-bang finale as Hurricane Katrina roars into Plaquemines Parish, Straight deftly mingles a gripping saga of survival with a moving depiction of Fantine’s emotional journey toward commitment and reconciliation.

Deeply rooted in the African-American experience, yet filled with insights that resonate for anyone seeking to make a better life without disowning the past. Straight writes about the thorny subject of race with sensitivity and nuance.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-307-37914-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2010

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in...

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LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE

This incandescent portrait of suburbia and family, creativity, and consumerism burns bright.

It’s not for nothing that Ng (Everything I Never Told You, 2014) begins her second novel, about the events leading to the burning of the home of an outwardly perfect-seeming family in Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1997, with two epigraphs about the planned community itself—attesting to its ability to provide its residents with “protection forever against…unwelcome change” and “a rather happy life” in Utopia. But unwelcome change is precisely what disrupts the Richardson family’s rather happy life, when Mia, a charismatic, somewhat mysterious artist, and her smart, shy 15-year-old daughter, Pearl, move to town and become tenants in a rental house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents. Mia and Pearl live a markedly different life from the Richardsons, an affluent couple and their four high school–age children—making art instead of money (apart from what little they need to get by); rooted in each other rather than a particular place (packing up what fits in their battered VW and moving on when “the bug” hits); and assembling a hodgepodge home from creatively repurposed, scavenged castoffs and love rather than gathering around them the symbols of a successful life in the American suburbs (a big house, a large family, gleaming appliances, chic clothes, many cars). What really sets Mia and Pearl apart and sets in motion the events leading to the “little fires everywhere” that will consume the Richardsons’ secure, stable world, however, is the way they hew to their own rules. In a place like Shaker Heights, a town built on plans and rules, and for a family like the Richardsons, who have structured their lives according to them, disdain for conformity acts as an accelerant, setting fire to the dormant sparks within them. The ultimate effect is cataclysmic. As in Everything I Never Told You, Ng conjures a sense of place and displacement and shows a remarkable ability to see—and reveal—a story from different perspectives. The characters she creates here are wonderfully appealing, and watching their paths connect—like little trails of flame leading inexorably toward one another to create a big inferno—is mesmerizing, casting into new light ideas about creativity and consumerism, parenthood and privilege.

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2429-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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