Girl Who Fell from the Sky
by Durrow, Heidi W.

After a family tragedy orphans her, Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I., moves into her grandmother's mostly black community in the 1980s, where she must swallow her grief and confront her identity as a biracial woman in a world that wants to see her as either black or white. A first novel. Reprint.

*Starred Review* When we are in pain or danger, we hold our breath and move with caution, which is how Durrow's measured and sorrowful debut novel unfolds. Rachel has yet to get the hang of the American hierarchy of skin color when she arrives in Portland, Oregon, to live with her father's mother and sister. Although considered black like her father, she is "light-skinned-ed" and has blue eyes, thanks to her Danish mother, whose shock and despair over the racism confronting her children after they moved from Europe to Chicago contributed to a mysterious tragedy only Rachel survived. Smart, disciplined, and self-possessed, Rachel endures her confounding new life, coming into her own as she comes of age. Meanwhile Jamie, the neglected son of a prostitute and the only witness to the Chicago catastrophe, has an even rougher time. Durrow fits a striking cast of characters and an almost overwhelming sequence of traumas into this compact and insightful family saga of the toxicity of racism and the forging of the self. As the child of an African American father and a Danish mother, Durrow brings piercing authenticity to this provocative tale, winner of the Bellwether Prize for Fiction. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

The grim, penetratingly observed story of a half-black teen and her struggles with racial identity in 1980s America.Rachel is the daughter of a Danish woman and an African-American GI. When the marriage fails, in part because of lingering damage from an accident that took place before Rachel's birth and of which she knows nothing, her mother takes Rachel and two younger siblings to live in Chicago. But the odds are stacked against a single mom rearing three small children in poverty while dealing with her alcoholism and an abusive boyfriend. The family's troubles are exacerbated to the point of disaster by the fact that the bewildered Mor ("that's mom in Danish," Rachel explains) doesn't really grasp the implications of her children's ambiguous racial status and is not prepared to deal on their behalf with prevailing American notions of what race is. After a horrific tragedy, Rachel goes to live with her paternal grandmother in Portland, Ore., where she is for the first time immersed in black culture and thinks of herself as being contained by, or constrained by, racial categories, prejudices and expectations. Interlaced with Rachel's story is that of her Chicago neighbor Brick, son of a woman who prostitutes herself for drugs. He witnessed the awful incident that nearly ended Rachel's life and in the aftermath became the unlikely keeper of a family secret. After years roaming the country as a runaway, he lands in Portland and happens upon Rachel in a coincidence not, perhaps, quite earned. Nonetheless, Durrow's debut won the 2008 Bellwether Prize for a fiction manuscript addressing issues of social justice.Nothing especially groundbreaking here, but the author examines familiar issues of racial identity and racism with a subtle and unflinching eye. Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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