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Black Ice

3.5  ·  Rating details ·  697 Ratings  ·  60 Reviews
In 1972 Lorene Cary, a bright, ambitious black teenager from Philadelphia, was transplanted into the formerly all-white, all-male environs of the elite St. Paul's School in New Hampshire, where she became a scholarship student in a "boot camp" for future American leaders.  Like any good student, she was determined to succeed.  But Cary was also determined to succeed withou ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published February 4th 1992 by Vintage (first published March 6th 1991)
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Julie Ehlers
This is a memoir about an African-American teenage girl from Philadelphia who gets a chance to enroll in a fancy boarding school in New Hampshire. It's 1972 and the school, which has only recently started admitting girls, is now also trying to become a little less lily-white, making Lorene and a handful of other students trailblazers. Of course, not all of them set out to be trailblazers--some of them just wanted to get the best education they could--but all of them have to deal with the realiti ...more
Jan 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
In 1972 Lorene Cary left her home in Philadelphia for boarding school in New Hampshire. The school, St. Paul's, had only recently begun to accept female students; more pressingly, for Cary, there were very few black students or faculty.

Cary's boarding school tale shares themes common to many: she made friends, broke rules, excelled in some classes and struggled in others. Over the course of her two years at St. Paul's, she established herself as a campus leader. Her experience is one of ambivale
Sep 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
I am always amazed at the personal style of African-Americans that attend elite, predominately white institutions. There are aspects how they view life (I am never really sure that they address the issues of color) and the words of their books sometimes seem disingenuous. This writer and Andrea Lee ("Sarah Phillips" and "Russian Journal") lived on the same street and less than a block from each other. Both writers wrote coming of age books.

Life at St. Paul's had to be really tough. Juggling rac
May 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
I actually meant to read this memoir for a class in college about 10 years ago!

I am ancient.

Anyway, back then I ended up choosing Mary Karr's "Liar's Club" instead, but now I've finally read "Black Ice" as well. It takes place in the early 1970s in a New Hampshire boarding school. The school's only recently decided to accept women and minorities, so the narrator, who lives near Philly, applies and gets in, only to find herself struggling to belong on two fronts as an African-American young woma
Aug 29, 2014 marked it as to-read
I feel this one is likely to zoom toward the top of the to-read list.
Still combing through the 500 Great Books By Women book list, which got set up as a Goodreads group, and tracking the demographics via spreadsheet (and so can yoouuu).
May 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
This was an excellent story of her life. It made me think as I always have how different African Americans are. We grow up differently; our experiences are so different. I realized that I did not struggle with going to school with white kids. I knew some where financially better off than me, but I also went to school with poor whites. I thought about this because the author was in high school while I was in fourth-grade in West Burlington, Iowa. My family was the only black family in this school ...more
Mar 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
A compelling examination of the role of Affirmative Action in one young woman's life as she comes of age at the newly-integrated St. Paul's school in New Hampshire. Cary's autobiography is full of nervous energy that endears her to the reader, and her struggles with self-identification and image in a school that both accepts her and others her is important reading for understanding how race continues to challenge us post-civil rights.
Mar 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Eye opening and so well done. Another must re-read as an adult.
Feb 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writers-of-color
Incredibly well-written memoir. I highly recommend. Some of her sentences are absolutely magical.
Taylor Pandolfino
This review has been removed for the purpose of anonymity.
Sep 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was sitting on my shelf for over four years. During that time, I occasionally glanced at it while looking for something to read. It never seemed like the right thing. Recently, though, it did. I snapped it up and read it quickly.

It's a memoir by an African-American woman who was given the chance to attend an eastern boarding school for her 11th and 12th grades (fifth and sixth forms). Her family was not affluent enough to afford the school on its own, but Cary qualified for financial help.
MaryElmore DeMott
Mar 18, 2016 rated it liked it
Here's the thing: I have been looking forward to reading this book since Lorene Cary came to speak last year in chapel. This book is written about my school, St. Paul's School, in Concord, New Hampshire. I had extraordinarily high expectations for this book as a result of Cary's fantastic reflection speak in chapel. I rushed into the book expecting an autobiography that explored and explained the inequality between the races, the socioeconomic classes, and the sexes, among other groups, at SPS. ...more
Feb 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Mr. Drake recommended this book to me as an example of a high school memoir written by a local. The author's experience with high school as a black female in a fancy boarding school in Massachusetts is gripping and so so so well written. She is so good at conveying growth and change over time, as well as the struggle of representing your people well, both racially and as a female. Some phrases I really liked: "veins raised themselves along the backs of my hands that summer. My handwriting change ...more
LaCrystal F.
Jul 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
This novel outlines the experience of a young Black girl attending a school newly integrated along gender and racial lines. The novel addresses issues the narrator faces as she makes her journey towards enlightenment. The novel in told in retrospect. At the beginning, you read with the expectation that some prolific experience will happen to the character the exposes the truths and realities of what it is to be Black in a world made for whites. While the narrator touches on this experience, she ...more
May 09, 2010 rated it liked it
Being a boarding school alumni, it was interesting to read Cary's biographical take on her boarding school experience in the 1970's.

While reading, I kept trying to place myself in Cary's shoes; how could she have felt to be one of the first black females at a school that was, at a time, predominantly white and male. Her juxtaposition between her life at school (rural America) and that at home (urban America) was very well done, and really helped to explicate her dilemma of not knowing where to
Jul 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
i loved this book's subtlety. cary does not detail one major event, but rather explores her experience at st. paul's school through the every day happenings of life. that's why i find her writing so genuine and vulnerable. i don't typically read memoir writing from the past 20 years or so---i tend to find books like this terribly hyped up and self-important--but i just loved this book. it is accessible but beautiful and skillfully written. it is a coming-of-age story that resonate with wumyn, an ...more
Feb 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A superb read. This memoir, much more elegantly written than the dreck you find on shelves today, details the experiences of one of the first young black women students ever admitted to the prestigious St. Paul's school.

The most moving parts for me were the ones in which Cary made a conscious effort to showcase her blackness, middle class values and connection to people of color to St. Paul's. I was expecting a shrinking violet. Instead, I found a moving portrait of a young activist acutely awar
May 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
The story is relatable and the author's perception seems authentic. Her predicaments ring true of coming of age experiences of her day/age. Some parts, particularly all of the references to smoking, are outdated and to younger readers might hardly seem believable. Others will recall from their boarding and college years that this was quite the norm back then. What I wished for in the end was a "looking back on it all, the thing that sticks with me is..." or some wrap-up that evidences the emotio ...more
Feb 21, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biog-and-memoir
Lorene Cary was a black high school student in Philadelphia when she heard about the opportunity to apply for a scholarship at St. Paul's School in Concord, NH, a prestigious boarding school which had only recently become co ed, and which was courting black students. She won the scholarship, graduated from St. Paul's, and eventually went back there to teach and to serve on the Board of Trustees. Her book is more than just her experiences at the school; more important is her self discovery as a b ...more
Mr. Brammer
Mar 22, 2009 rated it it was ok
St. Paul's is an elite prep school in New Hampshire. Lorene Cary's _Black Ice_ is a memoir of her time at the school, as an African-American girl from Philadelphia she finds herself in an alien environment. Unfortunately, the memories here are typical coming-of-age encounters with drugs, sex, academic and social competitiveness; the central conflict presented of trying to fit in as a minority in a traditionally white environment is not analyzed. Perhaps Cary's race did not end up mattering that ...more
Jan 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is the true story from a woman of color of her time as a teenage student on a boarding school campus in New England in the 1970's. It is fascinating and moving, and she is an introspective author (and teen, to an appropriately lesser extent). Ms. Cary gives a window into what it feels like to be displaced, to be on the margins, and what it takes to fit in and the cost of fitting in. She also talks about coming into her own as a person and as a scholar. It is extremely well written and an up ...more
May 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
This memoir is a well written account of learning what it means to stay true to yourself. Lorene changes schools, moving from her home in a black section of Philadelphia, to an elite almost all-white school. The changes make her think about the adjustments she makes to fit in. How much is too much and when do you lose yourself? What she figures out helped her graduate and move on in life, eventually returning to St. Paul's to teach. This book is definitely worth reading.
Aug 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Yep, this book was a little tough to read, not because of the language or the deep ruminations of the author, but because watching a preteen make bad decisions is like looking back on the stuff you did when you were younger and too arrogant to know better. But you know what, this is the type of book some teens could learn from; basic lessons about growing up, dealing with the race card in America, and how to look towards the future. The fact that it's nonfiction only makes it better.
Kristin Traylor
Jul 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This memoir, of a girl who gets a scholarship to an exclusive boarding school, was especially powerful to me because I could relate to so much of it, having been in a similar situation. Add to that the fact that she was among the first girls or African-Americans to be admitted to the school, her feelings of alienation and yet determination to achieve were very stronger, and she describes them in their adolescent intensity. Beautiful.
Djemo Fade
Oct 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
I feel this book has connected to me in ways that many other books haven't. Because of me also being a black girl in a boarding school, I understood the struggles she was facing and the crazy thoughts running through Lorene's head. This book was like a guide for me and I'm happy I picked it off the bookshelf.
Nov 08, 2012 rated it liked it
The author's life is interesting and the premise has a lot of weight to it, but she never really looks in-depth at her experiences. Perhaps because she wrote this as her first book and she was still young, but it seemed like more of a listing of events than a real, honest look at what it meant to be one of the first black women in a mostly-white New England prep school.
Jun 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013
I gave away most of the books on my school shelves, but I brought a few home to reread before I give them away. I think I first heard of the book through a book review in one of my teen magazines back when it was first published. I enjoyed reading it again after all this time. Boarding school books always draw me in!
Alonna Shaw
Mar 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: YA and twentysomethings
Recommended to Alonna by: Penn book club
This coming-of-age story was a terrific book club read--an engaging insider's view of an elite boarding school complicated by race issues and life challenges. My favorite parts were Cary's family stories "She left her skin draped over a chair by the window, as easily as others leave their lingerie."
Melissa Andrews
Dec 15, 2008 rated it it was ok
This is a book that makes you want to give a half star. I feel bad giving it just two stars, but I really didn't like it that much. It's the story of a black girl from inner city Philadelphia who goes to a recently integrated prep school in the New England area. There were some really nice parts, and it's a good coming of age story - it just didn't make me go, "Wow - I'd read that again!"
Apr 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
One of the best books that captures the life of what most of my classmates in college (I went to an Historically Black Women's College) went through in high school and why we choose to go to a school where we could see more people who looked like us.

My school has been BLASTING Imus this past week. Go, Spelmanites!

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Lorene Cary (born 1956, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is an American author, educator, and social activist.

Cary grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1972, she was invited to the elite St. Paul's boarding school in New Hampshire, on scholarship, entering in St. Paul's second year of co-education as one of the less than ten African-American female students. She spe
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“It didn't occur to me that I never named my own mystery illness the spring before (except to misdiagnose it to friends as mono), because I'd been afraid to admit, even to my mother, how much I'd wanted to lie down somewhere and hide. Black women, tall and strong as cypress trees, didn't pull that. Pain and shame and cowardice and fear had to be kept secret.” 2 likes
“I had not expected the gentle, tentative surge of gratitude I began to feel...for St. Paul's School, the spring, and the early morning. I needed the morning light and the warbling birds. I needed to find a way to live in this place for a moment and get the good of it. I had tried to hold myself apart, and the aloneness proved more terrible than what I had tried to escape.” 0 likes
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