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Virgin Soul

3.36  ·  Rating details ·  142 ratings  ·  32 reviews
From a lauded poet and playwright, a novel of a young woman's life with the Black Panthers in 1960s San Francisco

At first glance, Geniece’s story sounds like that of a typical young woman: she goes to college, has romantic entanglements, builds meaningful friendships, and juggles her schedule with a part-time job. However, she does all of these things in 1960s San Francisc
Hardcover, 312 pages
Published April 18th 2013 by Viking (first published January 1st 2013)
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3.36  · 
Rating details
 ·  142 ratings  ·  32 reviews

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May 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
The story of a young Black woman in Bay Area California going through college and not only being schooled academically, but learning street smarts as well. In fact the book is broken into four parts, Freshman, Sophomore, Junior and Senior. Each part serves as a backdrop for that particular year of College, but this is not a novel about education and the university. The main character Geniece happens to be attending school around the time that the Black Panter party is taking shape in Ca.

What ha
Although technically fictional, this novel reads like a memoir, and depicts the coming of age of an African American college girl during the tumultuous 1960's in Oakland, CA. There is a lot of historical name dropping in this one, particularly with the Black Panther Party, who were founded in Oakland at the time the story takes place. Although it is not autobiographical, the author was actually a college student involved with the Party at that time, so there is a sense of authenticity to what's ...more
June Ahern
Jul 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Virgin Soul is a rare treat and insight to the happenings of a city (San Francisco in the world's sights. For those who think Flower Power was all crazy kids, it had a huge impact on society beyond the daisies in the hair and the LSD bad trips. The 1960's was a turbulent and riveting time historically and the people who lived in the city or those who came, experienced the dramatic changes in values, models and views socially and politically.

The Black Panthers growth with the unforgettable Bay A
Aug 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Hmm. I really really liked this book starting out. But it kind of fell apart for me partway through. I'm not sure what the precise reason for this was, if the writing declined or if I was just more interested in Geniece's interactions with her family, herself, and the world in general than I was in hearing about the abusive guys she hooked up with, the potato salad she made for the meetings, how Bobby Seale was hiding from police, how many drugs she did...

Geniece was my favorite part of the book
Aug 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
I've been on something of a reading jag lately reading books set in my home region (Berkeley/Oakland). The previous book I read was Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue, which sadly annoyed the heck out of me. This one felt much more authentic; the author less pleased with every cutesy turn of phrase. It brought the time period and place to life vividly.

Sadly, it was less successful at bringing to life the main character, even though it felt autobiographical. Geniece, for all her striving for agen
Wiebke (1book1review)
Oct 23, 2016 rated it it was ok
I struggled with this book, for various reasons.

1. The main character was unbearable at times.
2. The writing felt choppy at times and didn't appeal to me.
3. The happenings were exhausting at times and meh at others.

But I also liked things about it.

1. Mainly the development of the main character, she really improved and became a lot less unbearable towards the end.
2. How informative and in depth it was about the Black Panther movement in the late 1960s and the events in the San Francisco area a
Telly Ree
Aug 19, 2017 rated it liked it
The book started out strong and amazing, but went left real quick. I hated watching Deniece's decline in the movement. Even though she claimed she knew herself throughout the entire experience and never lied to herself about who she was, I would totally disagree. I would say she lost herself in what she thought was Pro-Blackness. She knew who was with Allwood, or at least was finding herself. Once he left for Cal Tech, she was left to figure out the movement by herself, being led by people who w ...more
Jul 25, 2013 rated it really liked it

Call it the sunny side of the Bay, call it the town. Whatever name you give it, Oakland has the rich and revolutionary history expected from a city bridging to San Francisco and bundled up against Berkeley. Oakland is also uniquely its own city, with its own successes and struggles.

Originally a port city built up with the business of railroads, folks called Oakland the “Detroit of the West” by the 1920′s for its automotive factories and booming economy. During World War II, Oa
Nov 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Geneice Hightower, a young black woman who grew up in Oakland, CA, learned one very important thing from her family: get an education.

Determined to do just that, she begins by attending community college in Oakland, works part-time for the Welfare Department, and commences to learn some new ideas from her boyfriend and a group of friends surrounding him.

It is the 1960s, and things are heating up all over the US, even in the world around Geneice. By the time she transfers to San Francisco State i
Jun 12, 2013 rated it liked it
Eighteen year old Geniece didn't know what she wanted, except that she wanted out. Out of Oakland, California, where she had known up with extended family when her parents weren't around. Out of being ignorant and not having a future. Out of being a virgin, and not being in the groove of the Sixties sexual revolution.

So, Geniece heads across the bridge to San Francisco where she starts pursuing her education. She does two years at a community college, then transfers to a four year college, just
Sara Haasis
Aug 21, 2013 rated it liked it
Virgin Soul is set in the San Francisco of the 1960s, a tumultuous time and place in American history and, unfortunately, not one I know much about. I procrastinated on this review a bit because what can I possibly say about its accuracy or its authenticity? I have a feeling I wasn’t as emotionally connected to the actual people and events in the books as I should have been, because I couldn’t tell what was real and what was fiction until I looked it up later. But I can tell you the driving forc ...more
May 28, 2013 rated it liked it
The rhythm of Virgin Soul by Judy Juanita’s narrative is reminiscent of scat singing, but with a street-based undertone, jumping from moment to moment creating an atmosphere that resembles the turbulent nature of the 1960s. In this way, she captures the atmosphere, especially among African-Americans in California at that time, really well. The protagonist Geniece Hightower has always felt like an outsider since her mother died and her father skipped out, but when she heads off to college, she th ...more
Nov 13, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
Virgin Soul lacked strong character development and zero emotion in the writing. Judy Juanita did a great job noting historical points specifically of the Black Panther Party and its major players. The setting, 1960's was a controversial as well as explosive time in American life both politically and socially, touched upon well but, Juanita had many opportunities to explore and expand this time frame further both in characterization and overall tone. The main protagonist was lovable, the plot a ...more
Feb 19, 2015 rated it liked it
Geniece is growing up, moving out, dating, going to college and trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life. The backdrop for her life is San Francisco in the 1960s. It's a tumultuous, racially charged time of self exploration and she finds herself in the midst of the Black Panthers. Her passion for writing is blossoming but she feels restrained by rules and expectations that outside forces put on her. Although the story was interesting I never really liked Geniece or felt like I got ...more
Sep 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars. Didn't hate this, but for some reason just didn't like it when I finished it. Story about an 18 year old girl growing into early adulthood during the rise of the Black Power movement in northern California. I actually though the first quarter of the book contained a bit of character development, but the rest of the book felt like a shallow way to hang historical events on the framework of a girl's life rather than the actual progress of her life.
Dream 4 More Reviews
Dec 20, 2013 rated it did not like it
This was a book selected for LFPC Goodreads club. I finished it but didn't really like it. If you like journal reading or diaries in book form, then you may think otherwise. There were only a few decent points given in the book that was quite interesting but overall I would've not picked up this book to read on my own.
Aug 06, 2013 rated it liked it
A young woman from Oakland goes to Oakland City College, then SF State, and gets involved in the Black Panthers. The story is broken into 4 parts, corresponding to her 4 years of college. Interesting historical tidbits here. I liked the book overall, but I felt like it was missing something. Maybe character development, as one reviewer suggested. Some good writing in here, though.
Jessiree Jenkins
Apr 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I felt was a true coming of age story told from a chocolate girl's perspective. I felt like I was riding shotgun with Geniece and experiencing everything she did from being lectured at the dinner table to writing for the BPP. This is how a debut novel should be written. Can't wait to read her next work.
Aug 11, 2013 rated it liked it
I found this book interesting and mostly well written. The main characters journey through college and as a member of the Black Panthers is intriguing. It's certainly a book I'll think about a lot. There was something a bit off about the ending, I think, but would love to talk to others who have read the book to see what they think.
Chris brown
Sep 05, 2015 rated it liked it
a very good read and very well written. it was assigned to us for class so I going to write a big report about it later it wasn't a book that I would have picked up normally but I'm glad that I read it and I think that my mother will like this book.
Leila Cohan-Miccio
Jun 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, 2013
Great and exceptionally readable - managed to both make me want to read more about the Black Panthers and remind me of one of my all-time favorite YA books, Blake Nelson's Girl.
Apr 28, 2013 rated it it was ok
This was okay, but it was a struggle to finish for me.
Jun 05, 2013 rated it did not like it
Sadly, I couldn't get through this one. Here's my review:
Mar 27, 2013 marked it as to-read
Shelves: fiction, 2013
3/27/13 SA
Jul 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Great summer read. It answers the question for those of us born too late. Who would I have been?
Mar 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The latest review and a chance to receive a free book:
Laurie Gold
Mar 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: If you liked Middlesex...
Shelves: literary-fiction
Read my interview with the author in Publishers Weekly at
Jul 02, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
Starts out a bit thin, but gets richer and richer as it progresses, until it becomes a meal of ideas.
Mar 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Loved this book. Took me back to the hippie years, but from the "Black" perspective of what was happening at that time.
Angela Guidetta
Sep 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
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Literary Fiction ...: Discussion: Virgin Soul 79 106 Oct 31, 2013 10:24PM  

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Judy Juanita’s latest book, a collection of essays, was a finalist in the OSU Non/Fiction Collection contest in 2016. The book, DeFacto Feminism: Essays Straight Outta Oakland (EquiDistance Press, 2016) examines the distance between black and female empowerment. Her poetry and fiction have been published widely, and her plays have been produced in the Bay Area and New York City. She has taught wri ...more
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