Thursday, October 29, 2015

Blanche Among the Talented Tenth-Barbara Neely

Blanche Among the Talented Tenth-Barbara Neely

the facts
satisfaction: up
pages: 232
gender: F
nationality: USA, of color
year: 1995
novel

Blanche White is a domestic worker who is dedicated to providing her children the best education possible which means going to an exclusive school. When they are invited to the exclusive resort, long the bastion for the rich black community. Blanche is an outsider, both in race (her skin is darker than anyone else there) and class and yet gets embroiled in the solving of the two mysterious deaths that have occurred.

Well Blanche, I would like to hang out with you (though part of me fears I'd be too light for you). Though this is a mystery story, the mystery plays a background role to what Neely is actually interested in exploring which is race and class relations. Blanche experiences her race in way that makes it at the forefront of her life. She confronts it from white people as well as from the talented tenth (as Du Bois defined the leadership of black people-later this term has been conflated with those that can pass more easily i.e. have lighter skin) and then the kicker, her children who she watches learning the shame of dark skin. That this book was written in the 1990s and is still highly relevant today is an indictment of American society really. I'd say that Neely is perhaps too fervent and direct about her true objective in writing (seriously, there is a mystery story somewhere in here but you'd easily forget that) but I was fascinated since I genuinely liked Blanche.

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