cover image A LOVE NOIRE


Erica Simone Turnipseed, . . HarperCollins/Amistad, $19.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-06-053679-4

Love blossoms for an unlikely couple in this provocative debut, a romance embroidered with outspoken treatment of issues of race and class. Noire Demain is a brilliant and socially conscious Ph.D. student in comparative literature with a tendency to criticize those who may not share her ideals. The last person she expects to fall in love with is Innocent Pokou, an investment banker from Côte d'Ivoire whom she considers part of "the black bourgeoisie." But sparks fly and, as each realizes that the other is more than a mere stereotype, their relationship deepens. Turnipseed's take on star-crossed lovers breaks no molds, but her voice is strong and confident. She sets convincing and complex characters within the disparate neighborhoods of New York's Harlem and SoHo, the "historic locales in and around black Charleston" and the politically unstable climate of Côte d'Ivoire. Turnipseed's other great strength, much like Noire's, is her fearlessness in tackling touchy subject matter, whether it be spicy sex scenes or exploration of identity politics. Turnipseed's earnest treatment of social issues sometimes becomes heavy-handed and slows the narrative momentum. That, and occasional lapses into melodramatic prose ("The subway was a curious place where bodies touched even when lives did not. Was this a metaphor for life?") are the novel's weaknesses. But its many strengths, including frank dialogue and a fierce intelligence, make this a vibrant, engaging debut. Agent, Nicholas Roman Lewis. (July)

Forecast:Though Turnipseed's protagonist rails against buppies, they are the likely audience for the novel. Four-city author tour.