The Characters

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Toswiah/Evie is challenged by feelings of loss and grief for her old self and the people and places she loves. At her new school, she meets a girl also named Toswiah and struggles with the pain of seeing herself in a sort of mirror that does not truly reflect her. It takes time for her to understand that her name is not her identity. She gradually learns that the person she is at heart has not been taken from her, that identity can never be taken; it can only be given away by Evie herself. Her journey enables her to reclaim her identity, even though the need to protect the family’s secrets prevents her from telling her whole truth to the world.

Evie struggles, too, with the pain of watching the other members of her family deal with the identity issue in their own divergent ways. Her mother turns to a new faith for guidance and comfort. Anna seeks a way out, believing that freedom and distance will help her put herself right. When she gains early acceptance to Simon’s Rock, Anna’s hope returns and she finds peace within their new world. Evie, though, wonders how she will manage her own struggle without her sister. The girls’ father struggles with deep depression after the move. He sits by the window day after day, wrestling with inner demons. Never does the family doubt his decision to testify, but still he struggles. Evie is pained to see her beloved father lost inside himself and unable to be the Daddy she has known. As the surface identity of each family member changes, Evie grieves, until she learns that beneath these surface changes, her family members remain who they have always been.