cover image Every Time a Rainbow Dies

Every Time a Rainbow Dies

Rita Williams-Garcia. Amistad Press, $15.95 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-688-16245-0

Williams-Garcia (Like Sisters on the Homefront) paints a remarkably sympathetic portrait of 16-year-old Thulani, who came to Brooklyn from Jamaica with his mother and brother. As the novel opens, he is tending his beloved rock doves on the roof of his townhouse when he witnesses a rape. After he helps the young woman home, he cannot stop thinking of her; the author honestly conveys the mix of emotions the hero feels (sorrow, titillation, compassion, anger). Revisiting the scene of her assault, he discovers a rainbow-colored skirt that he knows must be hers, which he keeps and mounts on his bedroom wall. He follows her around until he works up the courage to talk with her, learns her nameDYsaDthen falls in love with her. Through their budding relationship and her passion for life and her studies (textile design), Thulani works up the courage to accomplish his own goals, to break through his brooding silence and to accept his mother's death. Through Ysa's gradual willingness to trust Thulani, she helps him to live with uncertainty and sadness. The rape and, later, a lovemaking scene between Ysa and Thulani, are explicitly drawn, yet the manner in which Williams-Garcia contrasts the violence of one and the gentleness of the other underscores the myriad ways in which their relationship heals old wounds. With its layered yet understated language, including snippets of Jamaican and Haitian ""patois"" and complex yet truthful characterizations, this novel will hold the rapt attention of sophisticated readers. Ages 14-up. (Jan.)