Saturday, October 4, 2008

Snapshot Book Review: Black Girl/White Girl

Black Girl/White Girl Black Girl/White Girl by Joyce Carol Oates

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
Joyce Carol Oates is a very smart author. She knows a lot about location, a lot about history, and a lot about language. However, as a reader, I often find myself feeling very aware of these things as I read her books: that she, as the author, is going to tell me about this location or this event in history or that now, she is going to use this particularly literary device to tell this section of her story. Instead of enhancing her stories, it often fragments them for me, the reader.

In Black Girl/White Girl, there were too many literary devices being used--too many different narrative voices, too many subtle shifts in point of view/narration, too many plot deviations. I thought it was quite cunning to veil the true intent of the story throughout, but I found that by the end, I should have been able to discover that this was in fact the true intent all along instead of being just as surprised as the main character was to discover what the true story was about. Because I was so surprised, I found myself disappointed. I wanted to know what really happened to Minnette Swift. Was the racism all faked by her, or was some of it real? Was her death completely accidental?

Perhaps this would be a better book to teach in school, with its history subtext (turned main text...). Either way, it does not encourage me to return to Oates' work in the near future.

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