AUTHOR: Heidi W. Durrow
PUBLISHER: Algonquin Books
PUBLISHED DATE: January 11, 2010
This book received writer Barbara Kingsolver's 2008 PEN/Bellwether Prize, has been hailed as one of the Best Novels of 2010 by the Washington Post, a Top 10 Book of 2010 by The Oregonian, a Top 10 Buzz Book of 2010 by the Boston Herald and named a Top 10 Debut of 2010 by Booklist. Ebony Magazine named Heidi as one of its Power 100 Leaders of 2010 along with writers Edwidge Danticat, and Malcolm Gladwell. Heidi was nominated for a 2011 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Debut. It seems that everyone in the world loved this book except me.
The writing style was poetic, but the characters and themes fell a bit more problematic for me. First I'd like to talk about what I liked about the book.
I really appreciated that this was an authentic tale. Rachel is a young girl between worlds...navigating her biracial identity in a resentful black neighborhood in comparison with her troubled upbringing in Germany with her mysterious mother and volatile father. The story weaves from past to present, and I found it hard to follow. It is noteworthy that I listened to the audiobook, which I wouldn't recommend for this book. Rachel finds herself feeling very detached from her blackness, and very resentful of the black people she encounters throughout the story. Rachel, as everyone else in the story, is obsessed with Rachel's beauty. Rachel cannot get over her beauty, and uses is to contrast herself from the other black children she encounters. She even says that black women are not beautiful, but makes an exception for herself, and an aunt who is kind to her.
The relationship Rachel has with her grandmother is complex. She loves her grandmother...but she realizes that there is a huge gap between her grandmother's expectations for her life and her own. I loved that Rachel was curious, and I felt that Durrow treated Rachel's teenage exploration with respect as well as her grandmother's growing addiction problem.
I wish this story had gone deeper into the issues of colorism. Unfortunately, it kind of focused on how things appear, and it didn't really go beyond that.
Recommendation: The book is well written, and does give an "own voices" portrayal of what it means to be biracial in a black community. Obviously, there are a lot of people who really loved this book, and I would definitely encourage readers to check out this book and determine if they like it or not.
Audience: Young Adults and Up
*I borrowed this audiobook on my library Overdrive account.
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