Betty Cavanna Cyrisse Jaffee - Essay

Cyrisse Jaffee

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Betty Cavanna has produced a wholly unremarkable novel [Ruffles and Drums] to add to the already glutted Bicentennial market. Set in Concord in 1775, this relates the story of Sarah Devotion Kent, her family and neighbors, beginning with the fight at the North Bridge. The descriptions of colonial Concord life and the historical details are well-drawn. But Cavanna sticks rigidly to her tired old formula. Sarah must choose between Thomas, literally the "boy-next-door," and James Butler, a handsome and charming enemy soldier wounded at the North Bridge and nursed back to health by Sarah and her mother. The stereotypical, predictable characterizations fail to make the important events come alive. (p. 96)

Cyrisse Jaffee, in School Library Journal (reprinted from the October, 1975 issue of School Library Journal, published by R. R. Bowker Co. A Xerox Corporation; copyright © 1975), October, 1975.

[Jenny Kimura] is a perfect textbook for versing teenagers in the attitudes towards class, race, sex and success held and promoted by the establishment. To her credit, the author has done her homework regarding Japanese culture and lifestyles, writes interestingly and tells a good tale.

Jenny is the sixteen-year-old daughter of an American father and Japanese mother on a first visit to the U.S. … Jenny enthusiastically embraces the carefree ways and goals of American girls (boys, clothes, boys, sports, boys, boys, boys) and deals with the racism she encounters with quiet and calm. The only non-whites in this environment are a "black-skinned, plump, and kindly" maid and a woman who writes book reviews.

Racism is overcome at the end through individual, not group or societal, solutions. Jenny ends up believing in the "essential goodness of America" and is left to decide whether to go to Radcliffe or Wellesley, depending upon which boy she wants to be near…. A clear value judgment is placed on the desirability of success, materialism, and other American ways of life. (p. 17)

Interracial Books for Children Bulletin (reprinted by permission of Interracial Books for Children Bulletin, 1841 Broadway, New York, N. Y. 10023), Vol. 7, Nos. 2 & 3, 1976.