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The Girl Who Fell from the Skyby Heidi Durrow
Heartbreaking in its honesty, this perfect jewel of a novel mirrors the real life of the author, who grew up biracial in Portland, Oregon, in the 1980s. After an accident claims her family, Rachel is sent to live with her grandmother in a predominantly black neighborhood. Rachel's confusion and frustration is palpable as she navigates through a new culture and new social norms. With flat-out gorgeous prose and pointed social commentary, this novel is an exquisite illustration of the beauty and ugliness of the human condition.
"The Girl Who Fell From the Sky is that rare thing: a post-postmodern novel with heart that weaves a circle of stories about race and self-discovery into a tense and sometimes terrifying whole." Erin Aubry Kaplan, Ms. Magazine (read the entire Ms. Magazine review)
Synopses & Reviews
This debut novel tells the story of Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I. who becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy.
With her strict African American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel moves to a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring mixed attention her way. Growing up in the 1980s, she learns to swallow her overwhelming grief and confronts her identity as a biracial young woman in a world that wants to see her as either black or white.
In the tradition of Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John and Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, here is a portrait of a young girl — and society's ideas of race, class, and beauty. It is the winner of the Bellwether Prize for best fiction manuscript addressing issues of social justice.
"Durrow's debut draws from her own upbringing as the brown-skinned, blue-eyed daughter of a Danish woman and a black G.I. to create Rachel Morse, a young girl with an identical heritage growing up in the early 1980s. After a devastating family tragedy in Chicago with Rachel the only survivor, she goes to live with the paternal grandmother she's never met, in a decidedly black neighborhood in Portland, Ore. Suddenly, at 11, Rachel is in a world that demands her to be either white or black. As she struggles with her grief and the haunting, yet-to-be-revealed truth of the tragedy, her appearance and intelligence place her under constant scrutiny. Laronne, Rachel's deceased mother's employer, and Brick, a young boy who witnessed the tragedy and because of his personal misfortunes is drawn into Rachel's world, help piece together the puzzle of Rachel's family. Taut prose, a controversial conclusion and the thoughtful reflection on racism and racial identity resonate without treading into political or even overtly specific agenda waters, as the story succeeds as both a modern coming-of-age and relevant social commentary." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Heidi Durrow is a wonderfully gifted writer who can summon a voice, a memorable character, with bold, swift strokes. [This] is a gem." Jay Parini, author of Promised Land
"It engages the heart as much as it does the mind...Unforgettable." Whitney Otto, author of A Collection of Beauties at the Height of their Popularity
"One of the most convincing, original, and moving novels in the distinguished canon of American interracial literature." George Hutchinson, author of In Search of Nella Larsen
Rachel, the daughter of a danish mother and a black G.I., becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy after a fateful morning on their Chicago rooftop.
Forced to move to a new city, with her strict African American grandmother as her guardian, Rachel is thrust for the first time into a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring a constant stream of attention her way. It's there, as she grows up and tries to swallow her grief, that she comes to understand how the mystery and tragedy of her mother might be connected to her own uncertain identity.
This searing and heartwrenching portrait of a young biracial girl dealing with society's ideas of race and class is the winner of the Bellwether Prize for best fiction manuscript addressing issues of social justice.
About the Author
Heidi W. Durrow has won the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition and the Chapter One Fiction Contest. She has received grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the American Scandinavian Foundation, and the Lois Roth Endowment and a Fellowship for Emerging Writers from the Jerome Foundation. Her writing has been published in Alaska Quarterly Review, the Literary Review, and others.
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