An African-American professor at an Ivy League university becomes immersed in a race controversy in this politically charged novel by Lattany (Do Unto Others). For seven years, Dr. Bethesda Barnes has been a popular literature professor at the unnamed university where she herself was an undergraduate in the 1970s. Her courses on black literature are always overflowing but, though she's a favorite with students, Beth has kept herself apart from the faculty. She hesitates to form relationships with white professors on a campus where she still feels somewhat alienated, yet she doesn't fully acknowledge her own discomfort, preferring not to make waves. When a group of black sorority sisters is harassed by white male students, the women ask Beth to be their faculty sponsor in a lawsuit challenging the university's harassment code. Beth agrees, even though she's not entirely sympathetic to their cause, and suddenly finds herself all too visible: students drop out of her classes; she receives violent threats; her job is on the line; and both blacks and whites find reasons to berate her. The controversy, along with the deaths of two of her relatives, force her to examine her ideas about justice and her own deep-seated attitudes about race, nurtured by her protective parents. Lattany's provocative narrative plunges spirited characters into explosive social situations, posing timely questions about the state of race relations on campus. (Apr.)
Forecast:The current debate about university affirmative action gives this novel added resonance, and should spur sales.