Virgin Soul

Judy Juanita, Author
Judy Juanita. Viking, $26.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-670-02658-6
Book - 306 pages - 978-1-101-62285-8
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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. (May)
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