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Third Girl from the Left

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3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  451 ratings  ·  60 reviews
With Third Girl from the Left, Southgate brings her acute vision and emotional scope to a larger canvas. This enormously entertaining yet serious novel tells a story of African-American women struggling against all odds to express what lies deepest in their hearts. Like Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay or E. L. Doctorow’s Ragtime, it ranges free ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published September 7th 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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23rd out of 161 books — 215 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,727)
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Malika
This is the third Martha Southgate book I've read...and I can honestly say she is a fresh voice in Contemporary Black American literature. She has a way of telling the story that *on the surface* seems like it would be a familiar tale of class and race---but changing it to be from a totally different perspective. For that we are richer, because she adds a freshness to the dialog.

"Fall of Rome" had a different take on academic diversity and who does/doesn't support it, while "The Taste of Salt" s
...more
Melisa Resch
Nov 30, 2009 Melisa Resch rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Melisa by: Pamster
I read this book while listening to the dirtbomb's dangerous magical noise, which was a transporting experience. I dug this book alot. Even though there are some weaknesses, the strengths were enough to win me over. Southgate has an ability to capture some of the essential moments in black women's lives and make them feel totally real. This capacity alone took the book very far. I also think her other great strength was her accurate descriptions of sex and desire. When she would describe her cha ...more
Melissa
A surprisingly great book--I picked up at the bargain section of Half-Price books. I was intrigued by the description--all about a woman who was an extra in some of the blaxplotation films of the 70s, her mother who was involved in the Tulsa Race Riot and her daughter who became a filmmaker. Hard to put down and a great story about the power of family and the movies.
CMolieri
I've never read any of Southgate's work but this was a powerful story that is interwoven through three generations of women and covers race, sexuality, class, and the broken heart.
Mistinguette Smith
Martha Southgate & I went to grade school together, and I find her fiction (both Third Girl and Fall of Rome) to reflect an experience of gender, race and class that is particular to our generation -- too young to be Boomers; grounded in a lived rather than intellectual feminism; the historically conscious fruit of generations of liberation struggle that often falls from not quite far enough from the tree that bore it, half-ripened and not altogether sweet.

The voices in Third Girl from the
...more
Janie
Martha Southgate did a rave for The Barbarian Nurseries, so I thought I'd check her out. I was soon wrapped up in a beautifully rendered almost too real story of African American women living and moving their lives from Tulsa to LA to NYC... I laughed some, felt stirred up a lot, and came close to crying. Now, I'm going to research Southgate and see what else she's written. This one was a true discovery.

I wish i'd written this review:
Third Girl From The Left will be justifiably praised as a fin
...more
Holly
Third Girl From the Left follows three generations of African-American women; Angie, her mother Mildred, and Angie's daughter Tamara.

The protagonist, Angie, feels suffocated in her small Tulsa town and runs away to Los Angeles to become an actress. She struggles to find her way in a new and exotic town that doesn't live up to her child-hood fantasies of fame and fortune. Mildred grew up in a more conservative era, which provides for an often tumultuous relationship with her daughter. And Tamara
...more
Desiree
I really enjoyed parts of this and other parts were so-so hence the three stars. I also read it in fits and starts which didn't help. It was great to read a story about different generations of black women that touched on their hopes, fears and dreams while also dealing with the issue of knowing and appreciating one's roots.

This is the third book by Martha Southgate that I've read and it's pretty obvious she likes to write her books from the different perspectives of her characters. While I enj
...more
Mely
-The ending made me cry.

-Three generations of African-American women and their relationships to Hollywood movies. We start, more or less, with Angela, in the middle, "the third girl from the left," tiny bit parts in blaxploitation flicks before she gives up; her mother Mildred had loved movies, and loved knowing how things worked when she was little, fascinated by machinery and projectors before gender and race expectations made her give them up; and Tamara, Angela's daughter, wants to be a dire
...more
Andaye Hill
Jan 17, 2008 Andaye Hill rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
This book spans 3 generations of women and the events in their lives that make them who they are. It's a story that many will probably be able to commiserate with. The writing is so vivid that the characters seem to be playing out the entire book right in front of you.

It focuses on the idea of family and what that means as well as what love means and whom you love. What it means to be a woman, what it means to own your sensuality, to be afraid of it. It encompasses all the emotions that one has
...more
Kimberly Brown
This book started off really good: You have the story of a young black woman setting off from small town Tulsa to big town Hollywood in search of that all elusive thing: fame. Does she get it? Maybe a lil taste but mostly what she gets is a lot of sex, drugs, and illicit behavior. The feel of the 70's and the blaxploitation era of filmmaking was fantastic. It's one of my favorite moments in movie history and the author does a great job. However, the character's stories seem disjointed at times. ...more
Najah Lightfoot
I am sad the story is over. It touched my heart, made me cry, made me laugh. And Martha Southgate nails LA life in the 70's. I know because I lived in LA in the 1970's and it was some the happiest times of my life.

I truly enjoyed Martha Southgate's characters, felt that I knew them. I loved it that she wrote a story about Black people that was a-sterotypical to the stories that dominate the media.

Her story left me wanting more, wanting to find out what happens to Tam, hoping she does achieve her
...more
Read In Colour
It really doesn't get any better than Martha Southgate. I loved The Fall of Rome & can't even come up with a word to describe how much more I love Third Girl from the Left!
Lynecia
Beautifully written. Moving, intelligent and soulful. A portrait of the relationship between mothers and daughters, race, class, family and learning to love oneself.
David Kravetz
'Third Girl From the Left' by Martha Southgate is a touching story about how three African-American: a mother, a grandmother and a daughter deal with the times they live in and with each other. It's interesting how their self-identity and self-acceptance evolves from the 50's through the 90's and a very effective tool in tying their journeys together is how their love of African-American films drives the choices in their lives - from the grandmother's love of 'Carmen Jones', to the mother being ...more
Josie
Pretty delightful.
Christina
This book seems to be highly underrated. I had never heard of the author before I read this book, and now I would love to read more of her work. This book was a great wholesome read. The characters were realistic and well developed, along with the plot of the story was easy to follow and understand. After the first 30 pages, the story thickens, and it is a page turner from there. This book dealt with a number of issues that came out of the 60's and 70's era. Issues such as racism, blaxploitation ...more
Karen Chandler
The interlocking stories of Tulsa native Angela, her mother Mildred, and her daughter Tamara illustrate how women's experience in the U.S. was limited, even given the rise of feminist and Black nationalist consciousness and the sexual revolution in the 1960s and 1970s. The novel tells each woman's story in separate sections, which illustrates how the women remain in their own worlds, estranged from the others. Angela has the most openly revolutionary story--she rebels against her parents' constr ...more
Liralen
I read this for a book club -- it's probably not something that I would have picked up on my own, to be honest, but I'm glad it was a book club selection.

It had mixed reviews in book club -- not enough difference in voice, not enough connection between reader and narrator -- but I loved the character arc that spanned not one character, but three. Mildred has dreams but no real hope of realising them; to achieve her dreams, Angela must turn her back on everything she knows; Tamara, although she s
...more
Chrisiant
This is another I culled from the lists for "National Buy a Book by a Black Author and Give it to Somebody Not Black Month". A good chunk of it is set during the era of blaxploitation movies. I had no idea there was such a thing, or that a few movies I had heard of (but not seen) were part of that genre. Again, reading this book, I experienced references to an assumed cultural background that I don't have. The littlest mentions of things dropped as background dressing (the hair at the nape of th ...more
Missy Michaels
I did not enjoy this book very much.I didn't like the way it jumped randomly from 1960 to 1972 to 1970 and just going that way. I enjoy books where the characters are really developed and I can see them and picture them and understand their points of view and relate to why they do what they do. This book was very detached and I could never get involved in the story or care about why Angela treated her body and her family the way that she did. This was not my type of fiction.
Kylie
This is a moving story about three generations of black women, their dreams and struggles and love stories. It's told from different perspectives, and some of the voices are more compelling than others. But overall, it's really enjoyable and parts of it made me cry. I love the way she brings all of the these threads together in the end; how she shows the evolution of these women, and this family over time, and in doing so shows how the larger culture is changing.
Revae
Third Girl from the Left follows three generations of Edwards women, and how movies impacted their life. Mildred, the grandmother, survives the Tulsa Race Riots only to live a normal Tulsa lifestyle in spite of her dreams. Angela, the mother, rebels against a traditional tulsa lifestyle and flees to LA to be in the movies never to look back. Her dream is deferred indefinitely when she has Tamara. Tamara fights for to fulfill her dream to direct, but when she's discouraged by reality, meeting her ...more
Continualknowledge
This book was so out of the ordinary that I'm not even sure what to say about it. Should you read it, I definitely think it's worth your time to pick it up and make it through the book. It's about history, family, relationships, identity, being true to yourself and finding your dreams all rolled up into one. It makes you question the importance of knowing yourself and where you come from. It makes you pay attention to your family roots and how learning about them means you learn about yourself a ...more
Chanel
Third Girl From The Left would make a pretty good movie. The author of this book Martha Southgate does a really good job at taken an intense situation and exploding it. At that point it gives the reader a good visual of not only whats happening but the visual of it to. This novel explores three generations of movie-loving women: Tamara, a struggling young filmmaker; Her mother Angela, a former Playboy Bunny and blaxploitation-film extra; and last but not least Angela's mother, Mildred a suvivor ...more
Danielle
Was a slow read at first. But things picked up and kept me intrigued. Angela was a very peculiar person that could have been more interesting if she would have just opened up to Tamara more about her life and shared her story before the end of her mothers life. I kind of wished Tamara got to meet her grandmother earlier in her life. Glad she was able to realize the love she had with Colin.
Marisa
My only complaint about this book is that I didn't have enough time to really focus on it. Martha Southgate managed to weave together a very political book - topics included blaxploitation films, race riots, and closeted lesbians, among others - in a way that felt very naturally like the lives of the 3 women at the center of the book. I found myself completely attached to each of the major characters, who were very different but all relatable and real. What really stands out is Southgate's descr ...more
trice
They say that you can't judge a book by its cover -- a fitting adage for Third Girl from the Left, whose paperback cover art may mislead some in all of its sexy, urban-lit glory. In this beautifully painted story about three generations of women and their love for film and image, Southgate skillfully portrays exploitation -- and in some ways, liberation -- of the Black, female body as said art forms bleed into life. Having just read The Taste of Salt, this previous work from Southgate echoes sim ...more
Joyce Karen Valdez
Amazing story about a mother and daughter relationship. Very compelling because of the sensitive but inquisitive story about races and social status of a person.
Alison
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Martha Southgate is the author of four novels. Her newest, The Taste of Salt, is available in bookstores and online now. Her previous novel, Third Girl from the Left won the Best Novel of the Year award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and was shortlisted for the PEN/Beyond Margins Award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy award. Her novel The Fall of Rome received the 2003 Alex ...more
More about Martha Southgate...
The Taste of Salt The Fall of Rome Another Way to Dance

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“In Tulsa, a girl would no sooner have run around with unstraightened hair than she would have run around naked. It would have been worse than running around naked, letting everyone see your naps (40).” 1 likes
“You see that beauty as it finally is even though no one wants to see it as it is in a black woman in America, not a hoochie, not a ho, not a mammy, not a dyke, not a cliché, just a woman. A lot of women. Real women doing what they can, making art where they can, making their lives mean something where they can.” 1 likes
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