Third Girl from the Left by Martha Southgate

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The New York Times hailed Martha Southgate’s previous novel, The Fall of Rome, as “powerful,” O, the Oprah Magazine called it “quietly accomplished,” and Essence lauded it as “a bracingly honest look at race, class, and self-acceptance.” With Third Girl from the Left, Southgate brings her acute vision and emotional scope to a larger canvas. This enormously entertaining yet serious novel tells a story of African-American women struggling against all odds to express what lies deepest in their hearts. Like Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay or E. L. Doctorow’s Ragtime, it ranges freely through time, fact, and fiction to weave an enthralling story about history and art and their place in the lives of three women. “My mother believed in the power of movies and the people in them to change a life, to change her life.” So explains Tamara, daughter of Angela, granddaughter of Mildred — the three women whose lives are portrayed in stunning detail in this ambitious novel spanning three generations of one family.
Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1970 is not a place a smart black girl wants to linger. For Angela, twenty years old and beautiful, the stifling conformity is unbearable. She heads to Los Angeles just as blaxploitation movies are pouring money into the studios and lands a few bit parts before an unplanned pregnancy derails her plans for stardom.
For Mildred, movies have always been a blessed diversion in a life marked by the legacy of the 1921 Tulsa race riots. But after Angela leaves Tulsa following a bitter fight, the distance between them grows into a breach that remains for years. It falls to Tamara, a budding documentarian — raised in LA by Angela as though they have no family, no history — to help mother and grandmother confront all that has been silenced and left unsaid in their lives.
A bold, beautifully written, and deeply involving novel, Third Girl from the Left deftly examines the pull of the movies, the power of desire, and the bonds of family in a quintessentially American story.

About Martha Southgate

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MARTHA SOUTHGATE was born and raised in Cleveland. She received her B.A. from Smith College and an M.F.A. from Goddard College. She has been an editor at Essence, a reporter for Premiere and the New York Daily News, and a contributor to the New York Times. She is the author of the critically acclaimed novel The Fall of Rome. Southgate lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Published September 7, 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 288 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Movies, the vestiges of Angela’s former life, help kindle Tamara’s interest in film, but as her interest in serious filmmaking grows, Tamara becomes ashamed of her mother.

Jun 15 2005 | Read Full Review of Third Girl from the Left

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She plays the three women's stories against each other—smartly starting in the middle with Angela's sexy '70s odyssey—and lines up their parallels, from the way each heroine is torn between two loves to the way they all have their artistic dreams deferred.The novel's most haunting aspect is South...

Sep 14 2005 | Read Full Review of Third Girl from the Left

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