At last, Heidi Durrow's debut book is out! (You know her from Mixed Chicks Chat and the Mixed Roots Film and Literary Fest.)
It is The Girl Who Fell from the Sky (Algonquin, 2010), and it is a most lovely book. I gobbled it up in two days.
Our main character is Rachel, daughter of a Danish mother and Black American G.I., whose story begins with a mysterious, tragic accident in which she is the only survivor. Suddenly placed in the care of her grandmother in a Black American community, where her hair, light eyes, and fair skin are often the source of much attention and scrutiny, she is forced to examine what it means to be Black. Because she is a child of multiple worlds—White-Black, American-non-American—she is at once an insider and an outsider to all. Rachel’s position allows her to examine these worlds clearly and critically; she is continually confronted with perspectives that tell her these they must remain rigidly separate. Rachel wonders what it means when her friend tells her she “talks white.” She ponders how identity is tied to what is seen by others and what is unseen, what remains only in her memory and what she lives now: “I don’t want the Danish in me to be something time makes me leave behind.”
This book spoke to me on so many levels. It addresses race in America, the changing perspectives of generations.
I've heard Heidi talk about Nella Larsen's work, and I can definitely tell she channeled her. Here is a new classic to add to the canon. Heidi is coming to Pittsburgh to give talks and readings at UPitt (and hopefully a bookstore or two) April 12-13, while on her book tour. Read her book and check her out!