Taming It Down

Kim McLarin, Author
Kim McLarin, Author William Morrow & Company $24 (320p) ISBN 978-0-688-15516-2
Reviewed on: 06/29/1998
Release date: 07/01/1998
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-446-67574-1
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Defining a place in each of two competing worlds--one black, one white--is the burden and the triumph of the protagonist of this warm and absorbing first novel. Memphis native Hope Robinson, a scholarship student at a New Hampshire prep school, is as much of a puzzle to her classmates as those white teens are to her. Never quite fitting in, she finds both at college and in her first job that her education causes black peers to question her loyalties to other African Americans. A position at a prestigious Philadelphia newspaper promises a fresh start, but tensions there come early when an anonymous, unfriendly memo about affirmative action splits the newsroom. Hope soon begins a secret involvement with David Carson, a white editor at the paper and the boyfriend of Hope's seemingly perfect colleague, Stephanie Johnson. Assigned a beat in the city's largest black neighborhood, Hope works earnestly to overcome the residents' distrust of the press and finds new love with Malcolm Blackwell, a reporter for several black media outlets, who urges her to take an active part in the community she observes. Complications in her personal life and at the paper prove debilitatingly stressful, but, after a revelatory whirlwind assignment in Africa, she has a chance to see how much she has grown when she's confronted by an unexpected critical decision with lifetime consequences. Hope's observations are rendered in a pitch-perfect voice, and McLarin manages the complex narrative adroitly. This is an assured debut that accurately reflects salient concerns of many young people, blacks in particular. Author tour. (July)
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