Darnella Ford, Author . St. Martin's/Griffin $12.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-312-30306-8

An eight-year-old girl from the Boston projects is adopted by a wealthy white Michigan family in this luridly imaginative but frequently ludicrous rags-to-riches debut. On the eve of her ninth birthday, Symone awakens to discover the cold dead body of her mother. The beautiful Dolores, a suicidal prostitute, has lost her battle with heroin and alcohol, and has taken to her grave the secret of Symone's father's identity. Living in the projects, Symone has developed advanced survival skills, nourishing herself on "toasted bread for breakfast, plain bread for lunch, and cheese bread for dinner" and making pets of two rats (white Honkee Honkee and black Niggah Niggah). Her problems are exacerbated by a particularly fierce identity crisis—she is a "bisexual, biracial, blonde-haired, blue-eyed niggah white girl" trying to pass for black among her project playmates. The racial question fades to the background when she is adopted by Ridge and Madeline Huston, who whisk her away to their mansion in suburban Eden, Mich. Perfect as it may seem on the surface, Huston family life is rotten to the core. A Thanksgiving trip back to Eden when Symone is in her 20s brings back bitter memories and launches Symone and her two Huston sisters on a half-baked quest for revenge. Garbled prose ("who will take to task to count the number of times he extracted her virginity?") and melodrama ("I had stepped over the brain matter of a guy whose head had just been blown off") diminishes the effect of some witty passages ("Dolores came from a family of dirt-poor niggers... and moved to the land of opportunity, the Dorchester projects"). Ford is clearly talented, but this novel rarely bounces back to earth, so far is it over the top. Author tour. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 10/28/2002
Release date: 01/01/2003
Paperback - 228 pages - 978-0-595-09504-9
Prebound-Sewn - 978-1-4177-0688-4
Open Ebook - 240 pages - 978-1-4668-2201-6
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