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Themes and Characters

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The core of Come a Stranger revolves around Mina Smiths, a black girl who grows before the reader's eyes from an amusing, energetic ten-year-old who is "t-rou-ble," into a strong-spirited young woman of fifteen who has a healthy sense of her own person. It is Mina's changing view of the world and her place in it that is the theme of this story. At ten Mina is little aware of life outside her neighborhood. She feels secure in her family, absorbed in her dancing, and untouched by prejudice or rejection. Black history and slavery seem far removed to Mina, and her papa's sermon on Jonah's fear of strangers in far-off lands is less entertaining than thinking about ballet camp. But in her second summer at the dance camp for gifted students, Mina begins to understand her father's concern. Midway through camp she is asked to leave, and she fears the rejection is because she is black. Her race and its history take on new importance to Mina as she attempts to deal with the prejudice exhibited by others, without falling into its entrapment herself.

Mina matures as she ages, aided by the support of her strict but loving parents and by her friendship with Tamer Shipp. Tamer is a minister like her father, who has a wife and children and is much older than Mina. However, Tamer helps Mina overcome her feelings of shame and rejection when she is sent home from dance camp, and she comes to love him. Her mother tells Mina she has been given the gift of loving deeply, and Mina knows it is true. Through her years of growing up, Tamer is a continuing influence on Mina's life as many of the decisions she...

(The entire section is 572 words.)