A lugubrious coming-of-ager by critic and journalist Chambers (Having It All, 2003, etc.) about a young black girl’s lonely life with her father.
It’s 1979 and black women seem to be breaking out of jails all over New York. Eleven-year-old Angela Davis Brown has been following the case of Assata Shakur, a soldier from the Black Liberation Army who managed to escape from the upstate penitentiary where she had been sent for murdering a New Jersey State Trooper. But liberation (of a sort) strikes even closer to home when Angela wakes up one morning in Brooklyn to find that her mother Melanie has run off in the middle of the night, leaving Angela in her father Teddo’s care. A magician and small-time activist, Teddo has always doted on Angela, but he also has a casual attitude toward money that drove Melanie to despair (especially since it forced her to support the family). Now left with nothing but a picture of her mother and a comb from her hair, Angela makes the best of things with Teddo as the two move from apartment to apartment and Teddo drifts from gig to gig. A dreamer with big ideas who drives a used Mercedes and studies foreign languages in his spare time, Teddo is something of a cross between Mr. Micawber and Horatio Alger, and he’s able to inspire Angela to think of herself as a great deal more than a poor girl from the inner city. Eventually, and largely thanks to her father’s impracticalities, Angela manages to succeed in a world that she was never allowed to look upon as alien or beyond her reach.
Too sketchy for a portrait, too intricate for a sketch: Chambers gives us a good glimpse of the inner life of a talented girl making her way in the world, but she shows us too little of the world itself to make us feel the true drama of the rise.