Joanie's Reviews > Black Girl/White Girl

Black Girl/White Girl by Joyce Carol Oates
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Feb 14, 11

bookshelves: audio-book, winter-challenge-2010-2011
Read from February 07 to 11, 2011

3.5 stars. This is my second time reading JCO and both times I started the book thinking that, based on the premise, I knew where the book would go and this is the second time where I was totally wrong. Maybe that's what JCO does, maybe she challenges assumptions and makes you look at things from a different perspective. I'm not sure if I liked this better than I would have if it went where I thought it would-my version probably would have been more along the lines of Jodi Picoult (say what you will-her books suck me in every time) This book is probably more literary and well written than anything by Picoult but I can't say that I loved it.

Genna Meade(white girl) and Minette Swift(black girl) are roommates at a prestigious all women's college during the 1975-1976 school year. Genna is the great-granddaughter of the school's founders (one of whom played and integral role in the Underground Railroad) and the daughter of an activist/lawyer best known for defending draft dodgers and political protestors and an aging hippie/druggie mother. She wants to be friends with her Black roommate Minette, she wants her to try to convert her, to accept her, to trust her, but Minette is distrustful of her white roommate. Shortly after school starts, Minette is the target of ever escalating acts of racism and hatred. As the semester progresses, Minette deteriorates, refusing the bathe, do laundry, etc for fear that her possessions or her person will be in danger. The school can't determine who is targeting Minette but it seems more and more likely that the attacks are being perpetrated by someone in their small dormitory.

Woven through this story are flashbacks and present day interactions between Genna and her parents and the "young, old men" they sometimes hid in their home. Genna remembers a time when one of the men stabbed himself in the stomach at her parents home and then was later involved in an explosion at a chemical plant that manufactured Napalm, an explosion that killed a Black security guard. Her father is often off traveling/hiding and her mother is convinced that their phones are bugged by the FBI. At first I couldn't get the point of these interludes and I couldn't see why I should care about them but Oates pulls it off. Still, I can't say I "really liked it" (thereby granting it a 4 star rating) but I do appreciate what JCO does here.
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Reading Progress

02/08/2011 "On part 3 of 8"
02/10/2011 "On part 6 of 8"

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