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The Good Negress: A Novel
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Published:
Algonquin Books 1995
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Description
“Haunting . . . To read The Good Negress is to fall under a spell, to open a window, to fly.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review
 
Twenty years after its initial publication, The Good Negress continues to be an important part of the literary canon, as relevant and necessary as ever. Set in 1960s Detroit, the novel centers around Denise Palms, who leaves her grandmother’s home in rural Virginia to reunite with her mother, stepfather, and older brothers. As a black teenage girl, Denise is given scarce opportunity beyond cooking, cleaning, and raising her mother’s baby. But an idealistic, demanding teacher opens Denise’s eyes to a future she has never considered, and soon she begins to question the limits of the life prescribed to her.
 
With lyrical, evocative prose, A. J. Verdelle captures Denise’s journey from adolescence to womanhood as she navigates the tension between loyalty and independence, and between circumstance and desire. The Good Negress is an unforgettable debut—simultaneously the portrait of a family and a glimpse into an era of twentieth-century America.
 
Winner of the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters
Finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction
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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
01/03/1995
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781565128675
ASIN:
B007N4X3TQ
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Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

A. J. Verdelle. (1995). The Good Negress: A Novel. Algonquin Books.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

A. J. Verdelle. 1995. The Good Negress: A Novel. Algonquin Books.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

A. J. Verdelle, The Good Negress: A Novel. Algonquin Books, 1995.

MLA Citation (style guide)

A. J. Verdelle. The Good Negress: A Novel. Algonquin Books, 1995.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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Date Added:
Jun 12, 2018 15:32:14
Date Updated:
Jul 05, 2022 22:57:12
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Jan 31, 2023 07:36:14
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OverDrive Product Record

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        A.J. Verdelle was born and raised in Washington, D.C., graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in political science, and went on for two postgraduate degrees in statistics and writing. She is founder and owner of Applied Statistics and Research, a consulting company in New York.

      • name: A. J. Verdelle
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title
The Good Negress
fullDescription
“Haunting . . . To read The Good Negress is to fall under a spell, to open a window, to fly.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review
 
Twenty years after its initial publication, The Good Negress continues to be an important part of the literary canon, as relevant and necessary as ever. Set in 1960s Detroit, the novel centers around Denise Palms, who leaves her grandmother’s home in rural Virginia to reunite with her mother, stepfather, and older brothers. As a black teenage girl, Denise is given scarce opportunity beyond cooking, cleaning, and raising her mother’s baby. But an idealistic, demanding teacher opens Denise’s eyes to a future she has never considered, and soon she begins to question the limits of the life prescribed to her.
 
With lyrical, evocative prose, A. J. Verdelle captures Denise’s journey from adolescence to womanhood as she navigates the tension between loyalty and independence, and between circumstance and desire. The Good Negress is an unforgettable debut—simultaneously the portrait of a family and a glimpse into an era of twentieth-century America.
 
Winner of the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters
Finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction
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      • source: Publisher's Weekly
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        Starred review from January 2, 1995
        In a particularly accomplished debut, Verdelle imbues her ambitious novel with a confident style, finely realized characters and a strikingly original first-person voice. In the early 1960s, 12-year-old Denise Palms, who has been living with her maternal grandmother in rural Virginia for five years, is summoned home to Detroit to care for her expectant mother, Margarete, new stepfather and adored older brothers. Neesey knows little of the world beyond Granma'am's country life but is excited to rejoin her two siblings who, in her absence, have become very different from each other: David is reliable and implacable, but unfocused Luke edward constantly courts trouble. At the local public school, Denise's intellectual promise catches the attention of Gloria Pearson, an idealistic young teacher, who works tirelessly to perfect Denise's backwater English and thereby raise her pupil's expectations for her future. Denise thrives under Gloria's tutelage, but conflict arises when her family's needs and her mentor's desires clash. At the same time, Luke edward's life slowly begins to spiral out of control when he gets caught stealing. Denise must become the fulcrum of her family's problems as she attempts to define her own identity. Verdelle imaginatively uses Denise's subtly evolving language to mirror the girl's growing awareness. Her characters, especially Margarete and Granma'am, are convincingly human in their true-to-life imperfections. Consistently absorbing and beautifully detailed, Verdelle's novel brings universal truths to an affecting study of adolescence. Author tour.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        May 1, 1995
        This excellent first novel examines issues of the black experience in America in a new voice. It is the coming-of-age story of Denise Palms, who leaves her grandmother's rural home to return to her family in Detroit. Denise's family expects her to concentrate on housework and childcare, but her teacher pushes her to spend time on afterschool lessons in diction and grammar in order to "better" herself. Language is the key to this novel, as the story is told in Denise's own voice, and the evolution of language in her life, as well as the questioning of the need to speak in unnatural words, plunges the book into greater depths than the simple plot would on its own. Contrasts between the urban and rural, home and the broader world, and men and women are emphasized throughout. Verdelle's ear for language is excellent, as is her portrayal of the emotional life of this young girl. Like many novels by African American women, this book portrays a matriarchy and the voicelessness of black women in the broader culture. Recommended for all libraries.--Marie F. Jones, Muskingum Coll. Lib., New Concord, Ohio

      • premium: True
      • source: School Library Journal
      • content:

        October 1, 1995
        YA-This first novel by an exceptional writer indicates the wide scope of the African American female experience. Set in Virginia and Detroit during the 1950s and 1960s, the story concerns a young black girl who is encouraged by her teacher to shed her southern ""back woods"" ways. Neesy is astonished to learn that the proper way of spelling and pronouncing her name is Denise. More than anything, she wants to be educated, and does not want to spend her life as a ""good negress."" For to be a good negress is never to look beyond one's station in life, to merely construct a self where expectation and performance are low. Forced to leave her grandmother's house in rural Virginia to move to Detroit to live with her pregnant mother and her mother's new husband, Denise begins to resent the fact that at 14 her education will end in order to attend to her mother's newborn. Encouraged to ""jump to the moon"" by her teacher, she continues to study despite her absence from school. Finally, her tenacity makes her triumphant. This is a difficult novel to read because of its flashbacks and foreshadowing, but its stress on education and a girl's coming of age are enough to tempt readers to stick with it to the end.-Michele L. Simms-Burton, George Washington University, DC

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        February 15, 1995
        This novel fits in the rite-of-passage genre quite nicely. Denise has lived in rural Virginia with her paternal grandmother for most of her life, but when her mother, who is about to give birth, asks for help with her housekeeping, Denise joins her family in Detroit. The adjustment Denise must make to a new physical environment is not nearly as daunting as the adjustment to her family (mother, grandmother, stepfather, and two brothers), who seem content to allow her to clean and cook. Once she begins school, she learns of her language deficiencies and how important it is for her to tackle and learn the King's English. It is this new realization that causes her internal conflicts between "helping out" her mother and pursuing her desire for an education. " The Good Negress" is a sad story, but the use of dialect and the descriptions of the present detailed by the explanations of the past make it an interesting tale of pulling oneself up by one's own bootstraps. ((Reviewed Feb 15, 1995))(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 1995, American Library Association.)

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shortDescription
“Haunting . . . To read The Good Negress is to fall under a spell, to open a window, to fly.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review
 
Twenty years after its initial publication, The Good Negress continues to be an important part of the literary canon, as relevant and necessary as ever. Set in 1960s Detroit, the novel centers around Denise Palms, who leaves her grandmother’s home in rural Virginia to reunite with her mother, stepfather, and older brothers. As a black teenage girl, Denise is given scarce opportunity beyond cooking, cleaning, and raising her mother’s baby. But an idealistic, demanding teacher opens Denise’s eyes to a future she has never considered, and soon she begins to question the limits of the life prescribed to her.
 
With lyrical, evocative prose, A. J. Verdelle captures Denise’s journey from adolescence to womanhood as she navigates the tension between...
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