Synopses & Reviews
From a lauded poet and playwright, a novel of a young woman's life with the Black Panthers in 1960s San Francisco
At first glance, Genieces story sounds like that of a typical young woman: she goes to college, has romantic entanglements, builds meaningful friendships, and juggles her schedule with a part-time job. However, she does all of these things in 1960s San Francisco while becoming a militant member of the Black Panther movement. When Huey Newton is jailed in October 1967 and the Panthers explode nationwide, Geniece enters the organizations dark and dangerous world of guns, FBI agents, freewheeling sex, police repression, and fatal shoot-outsall while balancing her other life as a college student.
A moving tale of one young womans life spinning out of the typical and into the extraordinary during one of the most politically and racially charged eras in America, Virgin Soul will resonate with readers of Monica Ali and Ntozake Shange.
"In her semi-autobiographical debut novel, poet and playwright Juanita's prose immediately immerses the reader in the time and place of its lead character. Raised in Northern California by black middle-class relatives co-opted by white culture, Geniece, a self-described 'dark skinned orphan-in-residence,' begins Oakland City College in 1964. Though accustomed to her aunt and uncle's bourgeois lifestyle, she feels like an outsider with her dark skin, natural hair, and dubious background as a 'broken-home baby.' Refusing to ask for help, she lives at the Y and works part-time at the local welfare office, having deferred entry into San Francisco State. Her new freedom and a love affair with a black intellectual further heightens her awareness of being black in white America at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Geniece progresses from middle-class 'good girl' to member of the Black Panthers, witnessing and experiencing the poverty, violence, excesses, and rhetoric of the time, a transition handled by Juanita with assured matter-of-factness. Juanita's prose and style put the reader directly into the head of her protagonist; the unique perspective she offers on a volatile period of American history gives the narrative immediacy and authenticity. Despite a derivative ending, this is a dense book that requires, and is worthy of, attentive reading. Agent: Bonnie Nadell, Frederick Hill Bonnie Hadell Agency." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
’s poetry and fiction have been published widely, and her plays have been produced in the Bay Area and New York City. She has taught writing at Laney College in Oakland since 1993. This is her first novel. She lives in Oakland.