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The girl who fell from the sky : a novel
Heidi Durrow
Adult Fiction DURROW

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Durrow's debut draws from her own upbringing as the brown-skinned, blue-eyed daughter of a Danish woman and a black G.I. to create Rachel Morse, a young girl with an identical heritage growing up in the early 1980s. After a devastating family tragedy in Chicago with Rachel the only survivor, she goes to live with the paternal grandmother she's never met, in a decidedly black neighborhood in Portland, Ore. Suddenly, at 11, Rachel is in a world that demands her to be either white or black. As she struggles with her grief and the haunting, yet-to-be-revealed truth of the tragedy, her appearance and intelligence place her under constant scrutiny. Laronne, Rachel's deceased mother's employer, and Brick, a young boy who witnessed the tragedy and because of his personal misfortunes is drawn into Rachel's world, help piece together the puzzle of Rachel's family. Taut prose, a controversial conclusion and the thoughtful reflection on racism and racial identity resonate without treading into political or even overtly specific agenda waters, as the story succeeds as both a modern coming-of-age and relevant social commentary. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Durrow's first novel, inspired by a real event, won the 2008 Bellwether Prize for best fiction manuscript addressing issues of social justice. The young protagonist, Rachel, is the only survivor after her mother apparently threw her and her two siblings from a roof and then jumped to her own death. Like a good mystery, this book builds to the startling revelation of what really happened and why a loving mother would kill her children. But there's much more, and if the novel has a weakness, it's that it oozes conflict. Rachel, who is biracial, is abandoned by her father; a boy who witnesses the rooftop incident has his own difficulties, including a neglectful mother who's also a prostitute. But one can't help but be drawn in by these characters and by the novel's exploration of race and identity. Verdict With similar themes to Zadie Smith's White Teeth and a tone of desolation and dislocation like Graham Swift's Waterland and Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea, this is also recommended for readers intrigued by the psychology behind shocking headlines.-Evelyn Beck, Piedmont Technical Coll., Greenwood, SC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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main characters Rachel Morse
Brown-skinned, blue-eyed daughter of a Danish woman; and a black G.I.; sole survivor of a family tragedy; moves to a mostly black community; lives with her African American grandmother; confront her own mixed race heritage; must make tough choices to protect everyone she loves.

Rachel's deceased mother's employer.

Witnessed the tragedy; helps piece together the puzzle of Rachel's family.

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