Crossing Blood

Nanci Kincaid, Author, Nancy Kincaid, Author
Nanci Kincaid, Author, Nancy Kincaid, Author Putnam Publishing Group $21.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-399-13719-8
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Although coming-of-age tales set in the 1960s South are in no short supply, Kincaid's adept characterization, blend of humor and pathos and ear for dialogue mark this promising debut novel. Adolescent narrator Lucy Conyers's white family lives ``right on the dividing line'' between all-white and all-black areas of Tallahassee, Fla. The Conyers's next-door neighbor is Melvina Williams, a black woman struggling with six ornery kids and a violent, alcoholic husband. Lucy's generous mother tries to compensate for white racism with kindness while Lucy's stepfather sides with whites on racial issues. The children of both families tease each other about skin color, but they are more curious than antagonistic; as the civil rights movement intensifies, Lucy develops a forbidden crush on Melvina's son Skippy. Lucy's ignorance, innocence and notions of privilege are credibly conveyed through her candid observations, and if readers wince when a black girl proudly rejects Lucy's ``ceremonious'' offer of sweets or when Lucy's mother forgives her husband his opinions simply to win him back, these scenes serve to remind them of the prejudices that prevail in our society. A skillfully written if sometimes predictable look at race and family relations. Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club alternate selection. (Jun e )
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