A TALE OF THE SEVENTIES: FLOUNDERING IN THOSE GRAY AREAS — A REVIEW

In the searing style of Joyce Carol Oates, we come to know the characters of this tale of the seventies: a story of black and white differences, racial discrimination, and the gray areas of morality.

Two girls from very different backgrounds share a room in the dorm at Schuyler College near Philadelphia: A black minister’s daughter from Washington, D. C., and the daughter of Maximilian Meade, wealthy and privileged, yet representing the civil rights of anti-war protestors and terrorists; he is also descended from the founders of the college.

Minette Swift becomes like an obsession for Generva (Genna) Meade, who somehow feels compelled to follow in her father’s footsteps as the savior of the downtrodden. Her efforts to ingratiate herself with Minette (and perhaps win some of her father’s attention) seemingly fall on deaf ears, as Minette becomes increasingly isolated, shutting herself off from almost any act of human kindness.

Throughout Black Girl/White Girl, we come to question the strange incidences of apparent racial harassment, even as we wonder just who is the perpetrator of these events. Then, seemingly in a tragic accident, a death occurs, leaving more questions than answers.

Years later, Generva Meade-Hewitt is a professor at a small state university, visiting her father in prison. She has created a manuscript describing the events of that year in 1974-75 when one young woman’s paranoia and another’s obsession seemingly conspired to set in motion a series of tragic events. Throughout the process, she has been forced to examine her own behavior that year and wonder how her own sins of omission might have led to some of these tragedies.

This tale was not one of my favorites from this author, but I couldn’t quit; I had to keep turning pages, wondering what surprises I might find along the way. Therefore, I’m giving this one four stars.

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