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Black Girl,/White Girl: A Novel

3.23  ·  Rating Details ·  2,656 Ratings  ·  309 Reviews
Fifteen years ago, in 1975, Genna Hewett-Meade's college roommate died a mysterious, violent, terrible death. Minette Swift had been a fiercely individualistic scholarship student, an assertive—even prickly—personality, and one of the few black girls at an exclusive women's liberal arts college near Philadelphia. By contrast, Genna was a quiet, self-effacing teenager from ...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 2006)
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Jess Wisloski
Mar 27, 2008 Jess Wisloski rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was good, but apparently not good enough for me to remember too well. I know it was compelling, and had something to do with a self-concious, but proud, young Southern black girl who wound up roommates with a self-hating liberal whitey from Pennsylvania. The black girl's own deliberate extracation of herself from the uppity school's largely white, but even black, female community baffles and intrigues her friend, who guiltily takes pride in having a black friend, and uses it as a token to c ...more
Abigail Hillinger
Although this book took quite awhile to get into (169 pages, to be precise), I'm glad I read it. Joyce Carol Oates has written a ridiculous number of books, and I was worried her style would be like the female version of Nicholas Sparks--not quite chick-litty or romance, but just...I don't know, 'cheap'. She's definitely not.

There are several techniques she uses that other writers might want to try--her different formations for flashbacks, her repetition of certain phrases/thoughts, the clues of
Jan 05, 2008 jo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
i seem to be unable to read a book without a mentally ill woman in the background. mentally ill mothers are of course the most popular, but mentally ill sisters don't fare badly either. in this book we have a mentally ill (i think one would describe her as unbalanced) mother and an irresponsible father. literary fathers are mercurial, unpredictable, brilliant, incomprehensible, elusive, and irresponsible. mothers are fucked up, pathetic, ever-present. that the parent who sticks around should be ...more
May 12, 2008 Sherese rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was completely misled by the summary of this book in the inside jacket. I really thought " Black Girl/White Girl" was about the mysterious circumstances surrounding the murder of black liberal arts student at predominately white private school and her roommates finally admiting 15 years later that show was involved and/or know who killed her. Boy, was I mistaken. This is probably the lamest book I've read in years. Minnette Swift "The black girl" is one of the most unlikeable characters in lit ...more
Apr 28, 2008 Ola rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: one who wants to read something different
Disclaimer: do not read this book in search of a happy ending. You won't find it here. I promise.

Generva Meade, daughter of radical activist lawyer Maximillian Meade and ex-flower child Veronica Hewett-Meade, is in her freshman year at Schuyler College, some old Quaker school founded by her great grandfather and known for promoting racial integration. She seeks friendship with her roomate Minette Swift, a Merit scholar student, daughter of Revered Virgil Swift.

Generva tries from the start to ear
Jun 30, 2011 Laurel-Rain rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 al
Oct 04, 2008 Allison rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Joyce Carol Oates is a very smart author. She knows a lot about location, a lot about history, and a lot about language. However, as a reader, I often find myself feeling very aware of these things as I read her books: that she, as the author, is going to tell me about this location or this event in history or that now, she is going to use this particularly literary device to tell this section of her story. Instead of enhancing her stories, it often fragments them for me, the reader.
In Black Gir
Dec 08, 2008 Jane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-white
While I was expecting superior writing from a novelist as celebrated as Oates (this was my first one) and didn't consistently find it, I have to give her credit for tackling an unusual and difficult subject. White Girl's unrequited yearning for friendship with her (Black Girl) roommate rings true for the time and place depicted. It's a little mysterious as to why Oates chose to make Black Girl so strange and troubled. But then White Girl was pretty troubled too, probably par for the course for t ...more
Jan 06, 2009 dara rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The title and book description are misleading. The book has very little to do with race relations, and more to do with the white girl's dysfunctional relationship with her politically controversial father and her own feelings of guilt. The characters are not at all likable, or even ones I could relate to or understand. The white girl tries obnoxiously hard to befriend her black roommate, who everyone else--including the other black students--finds intolerable. The white girl's fixation is rather ...more
Jan 03, 2009 Jae rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008-books
Truth in advertising would require this book to be called White Girl. Ostensibly about two college roommates, one the scion of a white liberal family with a long history of progressive politics and the other the daughter of an African-American minister, it's really about Genna, the white girl of the title, and her relationship w/her radical chic parents and her longing to befriend and be trusted by Minette, the black girl of the title. We see Minette through Genna's eyes, and as even fifteen yea ...more
I stumbled upon this book at a recent Joyce Carol Oates reading/signing in my area. (Although the tour was for her new book Dear Husband, I opted for this paperback instead.)

Well-written and detailed, this novel drew me in bit by bit. While I kept reading to find out the fate of the characters, it seemed the entire thing was imbalanced. The main character, Genna's perspective was obsessive and distorted, the dysfunction of her family evident in the fragmented narration. Meanwhile, her black room
Jul 17, 2009 Cris rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with insomnia..
gosh, i really disliked this book.. it was boring, the title was misleading, the characters totally unlikable..

i may be somewhat dense, but i just did not get what this book was about? a troubled black girl on a merit scholarship to a private northeast college in the mid 70s? or her equally troubled white roommate struggling with her wacky childhood growing up as the daughter of a radical lawyer?

i feel robbed of my time. the title was misleading- and the book itself is misleading-very early in
Jul 24, 2009 Debbie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookclub-reads
From the title of this book and the soundbites on the back cover you would assume this is a book about race in 1960s America. And it is, but it is also a book about a lot more. Mostly, to me, it seemed to be a book about white middle class guilt and political correctness.

The story is written as the 'confession' of Genna Meade, a white 18 year old girl from a rich yet extremely dysfunctional family. Genna's parents are aging radical hippies who have rejected their elitist upbringing and inheritan
Aug 15, 2009 Renee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shy Genna Meade is descended from hippie activists and abolitionist quakers. Self assured Minette Swift is the daughter of a preacher and one of the few Black students at Schuyler College. Can Genna overcome Minette's tough exterior to reach the person underneath she desperately wants to connect to?

I actually put this down when I first bought it, after a few chapters I couldn't seem to get into it. I picked it up 2 years later and sped right through. Joyce Carol Oates prose is absolutely beautif
Lecture de novembre dans le cadre du partenariat blog-o-book/Philippe Rey (merci!!).
Etats-Unis, 1974.
Genna Meade, 18 ans, va rentrer dans l'université de filles de Schuyler College.
Minette Swift, 18 ans, fait également son entrée à Schuyler.
La première est la descendante du fondateur du collège, mais ne le fait pas savoir. Elle est également la fille d'un célèbre avocat (Mad Max Meade) réputé pour son opposition à la guerre du Viet-Nam, militant de gauche, hippy à ses heures. Sa mère, qu'elle ap
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Well, I guess it's inevitable that a prolific writer of 50+ novels would write a clunker or two. I've been a big fan of her dour prose for decades now, and not once have I disliked anything she's bestowed upon us.

And then there's the poorly-titled (if not -conceived) "Black Girl White Girl" starts promisingly enough, with our "white girl", a daughter of a wealthy liberal Quaker family (a family with ties to Black rights movements and the Underground Railroad) who goes off to college in the
Larry Bassett
Apr 28, 2011 Larry Bassett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
When I was a 10 years old Cub Scout having a regular meeting at TW’s house, his mother found a piece of cake behind the couch; it seemed important to her to determine who had dropped it there. When no one accepted responsibility she took us aside one by one to be questioned about our possible guilt or our possible knowledge of who was guilty. Later I heard that the criminal was found out, but not how or who. That same year I dropped a quarter behind a couch in my house and couldn’t find it no ma ...more
Jul 07, 2011 Carla rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was an interesting exploration of a fictional Caucasian character Genevra Meade, who was assigned to room with an African-American young woman and the story of what happens, their relationship, some insights/questions into race relations, and eventually the death of that roommate (this is revealed in the blurb on the book jacket, so I don't feel like it's a spoiler). I like the way the author spins out details about the characters - some older remembered details and some newer currentl ...more
Sep 02, 2011 Bird rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We're accustomed to thinking of race in terms of it being fraught with tension. It has import; it's a Big Deal.

The strength (or weakness, depending on who you ask) of Black Girl/White Girl is that it is a book ostensibly about race written at a very close, personal range. It is an ordinary story about ordinary individuals who are in circumstances that put them ill-at-ease. Genna's circumstances are ones she's grown up with and obsessed over for a long time; Minette's are ones that seem to be re
Jim Leckband
Apr 11, 2012 Jim Leckband rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Drew me in, getting deeper and deeper into the characters and their themes of loneliness, separation and redemption
Ryan Heaven
After having reading Oates' 'Black Water' I longed to read more of her work - and came to reading this one. Oates' characterisation is impeccable here and her control of plot and narrative is enviable. This book really does make you look into yourself and will lead you to find things that maybe you didn't want to notice. Although the political sections of the book dragged slightly, the mysterious characters of Genna and Minette kept me hooked. I'll most definitely be reading more of Oates' work ...more
Sep 20, 2014 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I saw some other reviews about how the title and inside jacket were misleading, and I too thought it was about one thing, when it really was about another, but I do not think that should dissuade anyone from reading this strangely suspenseful and mildly uncomfortable book.

I say suspenseful because there is a build up to this tragic death that we have all been waiting for since page 1, as Gemma Meade recalls 15 years later the months leading up to the day that her college roommate Minette Swift
Thomas Strömquist
Set against the backdrop of racial inequalities and religious differences at an American college in the mid-70's, it is a complicated story told by the White Girl (Genna) of the title. She is inexplicably drawn to and does everything to befriend her room-mate, the indifferent Minette. A series of events occur, causing not resolution, but rather Minette is withdrawing further and further from Genna and from the world.
Mar 04, 2015 Korey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oates does such a good job at exploring anxiety and neurosis . I could feel every ounce of the tension and social awkwardness between Genna and Minette, and I really got inside their crazy heads. This was a great snapshot of a particular moment in time as well as a fascinating character study.

I wasn't crazy about the subplot with Genna's father (it was one of those things that either needed more development or to just be dropped completely) but that's a minor nitpick.
Apr 19, 2015 Ruth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Black Girl/White Girl is the first Joyce Carol Oates book I've read. I am not sure why I've steered away from her books but I am glad I picked this one up to read. I was able to relate to the racial tensions on the university campus in this book because the same tensions and protests were part of my university career. Many parts of the book drew me back into my 60s experiences. All in all this was a very good read for me.
Black Girl / White Girl tells the story of Genna Hewett-Mead who is reflecting on a traumatic event in her past. Fifteen years ago, in 1975 while attending an exclusive women’s liberal arts college near Philadelphia, her roommate Minette Swift died a mysterious and violent death. Minette was a scholarship student and one of the few African American women to be let into the college. Genna, a quiet woman of privilege got to witness the effects of racism first hand as the racist harassment escalate ...more
Jun 11, 2015 Dalena rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-book
I cringed often while listening to this novel. It reads as a literary caricature of a wealthy and privileged white woman who is trying to reconcile her (misplaced) guilt and concern with her depressed Black roommate and her relationship to her father at the same time. Remember the article by Jen Caron “There are no Black people in my yoga classes and I’m suddenly feeling uncomfortable about it?” That’s how Genna in Black Girl/ White Girl sounds to me. Remember the response by Pia Glenn? That’s h ...more
part of me: this is a great read about privilege and guilt. set in Pennsylvania at a College in the 70s, which frankly is refreshing.

another part of me: um, this story some chick's dad issues is not what i signed up for.

three stars.
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Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She is also the recipient of the 2005 Prix Femina for The Falls. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University, and she has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978. Pseudonyms ... Rosamond Smith and Laure ...more
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