Margo Brooks's Reviews > Black Girl/White Girl

Black Girl/White Girl by Joyce Carol Oates
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Apr 08, 2012

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Read in April, 2012

Audiobook. This book about the relationship between college roommates in 1974—the academically challenged daughter of a black minister and the white daughter of a radical white lawyer and descendant of the college founder—has all of the beautiful, deep description and layered nuance that you expect from Joyce Carol Oates. And although the characters were drawn deep and flawed and real, I had a difficult time accepting Genna as the daughter of radical hippie lawyers. She was just too naive to have witnessed all that was related about her family and too innocent in her relationship with her roommate. Her middle-aged image however was easier to grasp.

The book draws on themes of guilt, truth, lies, and loyalty, but in the relationship between Genna and Minette, shows how adherence to high principals can easily lead a person down the opposite path they intended to follow. This is also clear in Genna’s relationship with her parents. It is a sad book, that squashes the notion that one person can ever truly know another—which is all Genna ever wished for.

That said, did I like this book? I liked it better than other Oates books I have read. Even though it went on longer than I would have liked, the length had purpose, unlike some other books. Despite the beauty of her language and the reality that she is able to draw so convincingly, however, I’m not a big fan.

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