Black Girl/White Girl by Joyce Carol Oates

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Synopsis

Fifteen years ago, in 1975, Genna Hewett-Meade's college roommate died a mysterious, violent, terrible death. Minette Swift had been a fiercely individualistic scholarship student, an assertive—even prickly—personality, and one of the few black girls at an exclusive women's liberal arts college near Philadelphia. By contrast, Genna was a quiet, self-effacing teenager from a privileged upper-class home, self-consciously struggling to make amends for her own elite upbringing. When, partway through their freshman year, Minette suddenly fell victim to an increasing torrent of racist harassment and vicious slurs—from within the apparent safety of their tolerant, "enlightened" campus—Genna felt it her duty to protect her roommate at all costs.

Now, as Genna reconstructs the months, weeks, and hours leading up to Minette's tragic death, she is also forced to confront her own identity within the social framework of that time. Her father was a prominent civil defense lawyer whose radical politics—including defending anti-war terrorists wanted by the FBI—would deeply affect his daughter's outlook on life, and later challenge her deepest beliefs about social obligation in a morally gray world.

Black Girl / White Girl is a searing double portrait of "black" and "white," of race and civil rights in post-Vietnam America, captured by one of the most important literary voices of our time.

 

About Joyce Carol Oates

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Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Medal of Humanities, the National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, the Chicago Tribune Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Book Award, and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She has written some of the most enduring fiction of our time, including the national bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys, Blonde, which was nominated for the National Book Award, and the New York Times bestseller The Falls, which won the 2005 Prix Femina. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University and has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978.
 
Published October 13, 2009 by HarperCollins e-books. 304 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, History. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Black Girl/White Girl

Kirkus Reviews

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Genna’s distracted urge to do what’s right is also tested by her relationship with her counterculture-vulture parents: unstable pill-popping mom Veronica, and her father “Mad Max,” a left-wing attorney notorious for supporting and funding protest demonstrations and suspected of complicity in a te...

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The New York Times

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Haunted for 15 years by the brutal death of her enigmatic college roommate — a merit scholarship student named Minette Swift, the title’s black girl — Genna embarks on what she calls a “text without a title in the service of justice,” a personal “inquiry” in which she attempts to reconstruct the ...

Oct 15 2006 | Read Full Review of Black Girl/White Girl

The Guardian

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Black Girl/White Girl by Joyce Carol Oates 272pp, Fourth Estate, £17.99 Generva "Genna" Meade, the emotionally bereft 34-year-old narrator of Joyce Carol Oates's new novel, has much to feel guilty about.

Nov 18 2006 | Read Full Review of Black Girl/White Girl

Publishers Weekly

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trapped together in a sinking car, with a stranger,'' a narrator observes about the fate of Kelly Kelleher, heroine of Oates's ( Because It Is Bitter and Because It Is My Heart ) gripping and hallucinatory novella.

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Publishers Weekly

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With this latest collection, Oates continues to delve into the dark depths of the human condition with diverse stories of loss, regret, angst, and murder.

Dec 24 2012 | Read Full Review of Black Girl/White Girl

Publishers Weekly

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In a plot shocking for its blatant familiarity, a figure identified as The Senator tipsily drives a young woman away from a party and off of a dock.A two-week PW bestseller and a BOMC selection in cloth, this novella is gripping and hallucinatory.

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Publishers Weekly

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The new short story collection from the prolific Oates (after the novel Two or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You) contains sinister and charged moments tempered by humor and masterful storytelling.

Sep 10 2012 | Read Full Review of Black Girl/White Girl

Publishers Weekly

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In 1975, racial tension still runs high at Genna Meade's mostly white Schuyler College in Pennsylvania.

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Examiner

Schuyler College 1974 is where Genna Hewett-Meade and Minette Swift first met.

Dec 16 2010 | Read Full Review of Black Girl/White Girl

Bookmarks Magazine

Donna Seaman San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars "Perhaps the most remarkable of the book’s achievements is this delicate tangle of Genna’s obligation to her parents’ extreme ideals and her own simple desire to be loved within a conventional home like Minette’s, whose parents ‘were of an er...

Aug 21 2007 | Read Full Review of Black Girl/White Girl

Birmingham Public Library

Book reviewer Arlene McKanic states "Joyce Carol Oates is masterful at depicting ugliness, and the list of what is ugly in her world seems endless: the smell of unwashed flesh with its grease and pimples, overflowing trash, ill-fitting clothes, dying canals gleaming with toxins, the indignity of ...

Dec 26 2006 | Read Full Review of Black Girl/White Girl

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