Durrow’s novel explores themes such as race and identity, survival, and familial love.
The main character, Rachel, has bi-racial parents. Part of her story is learning how she fits into the world. Rachel spends the first ten years of her life living in Germany where race is not an issue. Her parents, Nella and Roger, have never had expectations of her leaning toward either the black or white culture. When Rachel gets to the United States, she is faced with racial expectations at home and at school and she does not understand what she should do.
Grandma Doris grew up in the South and she is stuck in the past. She wants her girls to grow up and marry good men, rather than growing up to become independent or successful. Doris sees Rachel’s interest in reading and school as a judgment on her own intelligence and accuses Rachel of having “high falutin'’” ideas. Aunt Loretta tempers Grandma’s old-fashioned ways with her progressive ideas. She shows Rachel that women can have both love and independence.
At school, Rachel becomes even more confused. It seems every student has a label – either black or white. Rachel does not know how to define herself. She says, “I learn that black people don’t have blue eyes. I learn that I am black. I have blue eyes. I put all these facts into the new girl.” The black girls do not like Rachel because they think her behavior and her speech is superior. Rachel’s confusion leads her to seek acceptance and approval by turning to boys who make her feel physically good inside.
Unfortunately, the people in Rachel’s life who do not judge her or label her end up leaving her – her mother, her father, and then Aunt Loretta. Luckily, Drew stays around and provides some of the guidance and acceptance Rachel needs. Drew also provides a link to Brick who gives Rachel some of the answers to her questions about who she is.
Rachel and Brick are both survivors. Brick endured a childhood with a largely absent mother who rarely demonstrated...
(The entire section is 829 words.)