Black Girl White Girl, Paperback Book
3 out of 5 (2 ratings)


A controversial, painfully intimate depiction of race in America by the esteemed author of `We were the Mulvaneys', `Blonde' and `The Falls'.Fifteen years after the mysterious death of Minette Swift - a 19-year-old black girl enrolled as a scholarship student in an exclusive liberal arts college - her former roommate Genna begins an unofficial enquiry into the traumatic event.

In reconstructing the girls' tumultuous freshman year at the college, Genna is led also to reconstruct her life as the daughter of a famous `radical-hippie-lawyer' of the 1960s among whose clients were anti-Vietnam war protesters wanted by the FBI.What follows is a gripping and personal portrayal of 'black' and 'white' in America in the years of crisis following the end of the Vietnam War, and the ignominious exposure and fall of President Richard Nixon.


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Review by

Genna Meade is the well-meaning daughter of well-to-do, radical hippie parents. Her college roommate Minette, the daughter of an African American minister, is reserved, prickly, eccentric and unpopular. Genna is almost desperate to win Minette's friendship, but a series of racist incidents in their dorm complicates their relationship and sets the stage for a tragedy. As always, Oates presents finely drawn characters and an engrossing story. My only criticism is that Genna seems too naive, politically and socially, considering her home environment. The college, too, seemed quaint and genteel, and I doubt even a Main Line women's college was genteel in the 1970s.

Review by

One of those books that when you try to recount the story after reading it seems deeper and more enjoyable than it felt like when you were actually reading it. I’m never sure how to rate books on these occasions ...15 years after the death of Minette Swift, the ‘black girl’ of the title, 'white girl' Genna recollects the events of the time she spent as Minette’s roommate in the 1970s, and the events that lead to Minette’s death ... This is as much the story of the relationship between the two girls, as it is the story of Genna’s relationship with her radical left-wing family, and the consequences of her liberal upbringing ...

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