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Sarah Phillips by Andrea Lee

Sarah Phillips - Andrea Lee

This is a very well-written book, clear and evocative, and I particularly liked the early chapters, which evoke suburban childhood summers and follow the young protagonist through her first encounters with race. Sadly, the later part of the book didn’t jive as well for me, though the writing is equally good. The chapters are episodic to the point that it resembles a short story collection more than a novel (some of them appear to have been published independently), which I wasn’t expecting. It was also odd, given that this is presented as a semi-autobiographical work and people who meet the narrator identify her as black, to see a picture of the author – she looks vaguely southern European, perhaps Hispanic, and I struggled to reconcile that with a book about coming of age as an upper-middle-class African-American woman. (I realize that a portion of the author's heritage is African-American and she identifies as such, but that seems to me a vastly different experience from actually looking black.) At any rate, though it didn’t all quite come together for me in the way I expected, this is an elegantly-written and complex work with realistic, nuanced characters, certainly worth the relatively short time it takes to read.