Introduction

On the Easter Sunday of 1939 when David Strom, a German and a nonpracticing Jew who has fled from Nazi Germany, met Delia Daley, a gifted black gospel singer from Philadelphia, the two were drawn irresistibly to each other. Delia, a physician’s daughter, and David, a physicist teaching at Columbia University, were well aware of the complications that their marriage would ignite both in Delia’s family and in their own lives. Nevertheless, they married and had three children, one of whom, Joey Strom, is Powers’s narrator. Each of the children, Joey, Jonah, and Ruth (nicknamed Rootie), is gifted musically, but Jonah is a world-class tenor, who eventually flees to Europe to pursue his career in an atmosphere where he will be identified as a singer rather than as a “black singer.”

David and Delia do everything they can to protect their children from the racial difficulties that mixed-race children faced in New York—indeed, in most of the United States—at that time. They home-schooled the children, and music became the center of their lives, the unifying force that enabled them to create their own exclusive realities. It is a combination of music and physics that causes Albert Einstein to make a cameo appearance in the novel.

When the children are of an age to leave home, their parents attempt to find the most compatible situations for them, but even in racially tolerant educational institutions in Boston, they are subjected to racial...

(The entire section is 473 words.)