(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Black Ice, Lorene Cary’s autobiographical novel, chronicles her teen years during the 1970’s. At the age of fourteen, she was transplanted from her home in West Philadelphia into the white, male terrain of St. Paul’s, an exclusive boarding school in Concord, New Hampshire. Cary recalls her struggle and determination to succeed as an ambitious scholarship student under disquieting circumstances. The book records her efforts to secure and define her identity as a young black woman.

Cary’s resolve is born from a sense of duty to her family, ancestors, and community. She carries her mother’s proud defiance and her father’s fortitude with her as she encounters pain and triumph at St. Paul’s. She meets and befriends students and adults from many diverse backgrounds and learns that alienation, ignorance, love, and devotion are not bound by racial or cultural boundaries.

Cary discloses a realm of cathartic and celebratory firsts with poignant sensibility and perception. A seemingly innocent rendezvous results in her first sexual encounter. It is, technically, date rape. A tacit, selfish betrayal turns affection and trust into bitterness and loathing. Cary has her first experiences with the dark, manic behaviors surrounding finals: cramming, sleeplessness, agitation, and neglect. She encounters the specters of drugs and alcohol and wrestles the psychological demons that threaten to compromise her mentally and physically. She...

(The entire section is 446 words.)