Brass Ankle Blues

Rachel M. Harper, Author
Rachel M. Harper, Author . Touchstone $23 (286p) ISBN 978-0-7432-7680-1
Reviewed on: 11/07/2005
Release date: 02/01/2006
Paperback - 286 pages - 978-0-7432-9658-8
Open Ebook - 304 pages - 978-0-7432-9900-8
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Harper's thoughtful but heavy-handed coming-of-age debut tracks the summer of Nellie Kincaid's 15th year. Like many teenagers, Nellie is sullen and curious, contemptuous of her mother and adoring of her father, swept up in the throes of first love and making bids for independence. As the daughter of a white mother and black father, however, most of her angst revolves around her mixed heritage. Devastated by the recent separation of her parents, she embarks on a journey to her family's lake house with her father, Malcolm, a quiet, cerebral English professor, and her white cousin Jess, a chain-smoking, free-spirited, kleptomaniac 16-year-old girl. On a road trip of misadventures that spans Boston, St. Croix, and Minnesota, Nellie discovers that she and Jess have more in common than she'd like to admit, and that family can offer solace from uncertainty. Despite its impassioned identity politics, the novel lacks revelatory punch, as with Nellie's final insight: "The family, the cabin, the lake: they are all old and new at the same time, just like I am. Foreign and familiar/ Urban and rural/ Black and white/ Here and there/ Everywhere—even in you." (Feb.)

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