four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
26-Jan-Feb-2007
user_rating: 
0

A-Black Girl-White GirlGenna Mead’s great-grandfather was a founder of Pennsylvania’s Schuyler College, and her Quaker ancestors were abolitionists. When she arrived at Schuyler in the mid-1970s, Genna went out of her way to play down her fortunate roots. She also went the extra mile to befriend her roommate Minette, a black scholarship student from Washington D.C. Minette, however, rebuffs Genna’s excessive attention, as she rejects most of the attention she receives at Schuyler. Racist events spill into the story, forcing Minette out of her antagonistic pose and prompting Genna to look carefully at her motivations.
Ecco. 288 pages. $25.95 ISBN: 0061125644

Los Angeles Times 5 of 5 Stars
"Only those with the biggest hearts have the nerve to enter that bruising frontier of the national life, integration, where nothing is actually what it seems, and no one has a heart bigger, braver or more full of unsentimental pity than Joyce Carol Oates." Stanley Crouch

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"What ensues over their tumultuous first year in this daring and exquisite novel by Joyce Carol Oates reflects the tragedy of our purportedly progressive views on race, both then and now, views that ignore the deep complexities of this issue and thus exacerbate the dilemma they seek to resolve." Robert Braile

Chicago Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"Her quick-footed style has an alluringly cinematic energy, and even in a hurried tale, Oates packs more insights into human nature into one scene than most novelists can convey in an entire book." Donna Seaman

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"Perhaps the most remarkable of the book’s achievements is this delicate tangle of Genna’s obligation to her parents’ extreme ideals and her own simple desire to be loved within a conventional home like Minette’s, whose parents ‘were of an era when family still prevailed.’" Christine Thomas

NY Times Book Review 3 of 5 Stars
"By now, it’s a cliché to comment on the rate at which Oates turns out books, making Trollope look as if he was writing in handcuffs. Still, this one feels rushed to a conclusion." Elissa Schappell

Christian Science Monitor 2.5 of 5 Stars
"What could have been a stunning examination of race relations and white liberal guilt on a college campus, Black Girl/White Girl instead feels a little, well, rushed." Yvonne Zipp

Critical Summary

In 2006 Joyce Carol Oates released two novels (Missing Mom and Black Girl/White Girl), a new collection of short stories (High Lonesome), and another novel under her pseudonym Lauren Kelly (Blood Mask). What negativity exists in reviews of her latest work is tied to accusations that Oates sells a promising novel short by not allowing herself time to develop it properly. That doesn’t stop Stanley Crouch from delivering an ecstatic review. Nor does the complaint stand up against the balance of critics who come down overwhelmingly on the National Book Award winner’s side in proclaiming Black Girl/White Girl a brave, nuanced look at American culture.