by A. J. Verdelle
It is 1963, and young Denise Palms, reared in rural Virginia by her grandmother, has just rejoined her mother, new stepfather, and two older brothers in Detroit. Denise is an ordinary, intelligent negro girl in a not unusual negro family, which means that she is expected to cook and clean house, go to school, and take care of her mother's baby when it comes. In this groundbreaking debut, A. J. Verdelle tells the story of Denise's family - a story filtered through the perspective of Denise's vibrant, maturing intelligence. Studies with an uncompromising new teacher, Miss Gloria Pearson, have encouraged Denise to "reach beyond her station," and Denise begins to dread the arrival of her mother's baby, knowing that her new responsibilities at home will mean the end of her after-school lessons in diction and grammar. Miss Pearson insists that she must educate herself - that she must learn "to speak the King's English" - if she ever wants to be heard. If her mother succeeds in keeping her homebound, Miss Pearson warns, Denise will remain the "good little negress" the world wants her to be.
Hardcover: 298 pages