book review: The Girl Who Fell from the Sky

Title: The Girl Who Fell From the Sky
Author: Heidi W. Durrow
ISBN: 978-1565126800
Pages: 256
Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1 edition (February 16, 2010)
Category: literary/contemporary fiction
Review source: publisher
Rating: A

I am light skinned-ed. That’s what the other kids say. And I talk white. I think new things when they say this. There are a lot of important things I didn’t know about. I think Mor didn’t know either. They tell me it is bad to have ashy knees. They say stay out of the rain so my hair doesn’t go back. They say white people don’t use washrags, and I realize now, at Grandma’s, I do. They have a language I don’t know but I understand. I learn that black people don’t have blue eyes. I learn that I am black. I have blue eyes. I put all these new fact into the new girl.

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky is a provocative and creative coming-of-age in the 1980s story. Blue-eyed, mocha-skinned Rachel is the daughter of a black GI-father and a Danish mother. The sole survivor of a Chicago rooftop tragedy, the 12-year-old ends up at her boozing and opinionated grandmother’s house in Portland, Ore. Rachel spent most of her early years in Europe where she felt very comfortable in her skin and her mother wasn’t eyed strangely for toting around three children with skin shades darker than her own. Now back stateside, she’s struggling with her identity. A bookish girl, Rachel reads voraciously and favors history. Rachel is not easily labeled and that confuses many of her peers. Other black girls pick on her because of her eyes, light skin, and manner of speaking. Boys cannot figure out her exotic looks and demeanor.

Author Heidi Durrow spent years writing The Girl Who Fell from the Sky based on some of her own experiences. The novel provides further introspection. People still have issues with educated black people sounding “too white” or acting “better” than other black people or “selling out.” If you watch Oprah, she talks different ways depending on her audience and guests. Look at the critique that President Obama sometimes receives. And of course there was the entire questioning his race thing. White mother/ black father. What is so confusing? Isn’t America a big Melting Pot? Durrow crafts a beautiful story delving into a teenage girl’s psyche. Rachel overcomes past tragedy and current conflict as she becomes comfortable being Rachel. A unique individual. Using mysterious elements and a measured reveal, The Girl Who Fell from the Sky leaves the reader with many questions to ponder and is a must-read.

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky was a February Indie Next Pick.

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