BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Mostly White by Alison Hart [in Booklist]

Blood ties spanning almost a century connect Emma, an Indian Residential School runaway, to her great-granddaughter, Ella, a struggling actor. In 1890 Maine, Emma – born to a Passamaquoddy Native father and an African American mother, is violently uprooted and trapped in a tortuous school for Native Americans. Beaten, humiliated, raped, 11-year-old Emma escapes and is saved by an Irish bootlegger whom she eventually marries. Alcohol provides the family a meager living, even as it destroys their lives.

Emma’s oldest daughter, Deliah, abandons a promising singing career for an insistent lothario. Their daughter, Margaret, finally breaks the poverty cycle, but not without immeasurable personal cost. By 1986, Margaret’s eldest, Ella, is in Manhattan, chasing her celluloid dreams, but brutal racism remains her greatest obstacle.

Poet Alison Hart’s debut novel impresses with content rather than style (her prose tends toward stilted, even wooden). Identifying herself as African American, Passamaquoddy Native American, Irish, Scottish, and English, Hart draws on autobiographical details, turning her truth to fiction. Her chorus of women abused institutionally, culturally, and historically is daunting, but their resilience should ultimately prove affecting.

Review: “Fiction,” Booklist, November 1, 2018

Readers: Adult

Published: 2018


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