Looking for a light summer beach read? Skip, The Girl Who Fell From the Sky. But, if you want a thought-provoking drama with rich characters, story and imagery, then you just might want to read this first novel by Heidi Durrow. As the book begins, the main character, Rachel, is just eleven. She has gone to Portland, Oregon to live with a grandmother she hardly knows and she is self-consciously putting on the role of "new girl." We find out quickly that she has been orphaned by a terrible tragedy, she is biracial and the year is 1982.
Rachel, like the author, has an African-American serviceman father and a Danish mother. Most of Rachel's early life was lived in Europe, so she is unprepared for the response to her racial identity in America. We learn with Rachel what it means to be biracial in America.
The story unfolds in narratives by the main characters; each chapter titled by the character relating their view of the story. Rachel's chapter's are told in first person and they were my favorite. I love the voice that Durrow gives Rachel. She is both a perceptive observer and a determined survivor. By the time she reaches high school, Rachel knows "how to answer the questions differently..., I'm black. I'm from Northeast Portland." Of course these are half truths and lies, but it is easier than trying to explain the complications of her heritage and situation.
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