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Activist's Daughter

Activist's Daughter

5.0 1
by Ellyn Bache

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A young woman's gradual commitment to the civil rights movement of the 1960s is the theme of Bache's solid and absorbing third novel (following Festival in Fire Season). Beryl Rosinsky's eventual involvement in the struggle is in ironic contrast to her initial determination to rebel against her mother's activism, spurred when Beryl's father's career was destroyed by the McCarthy hearings. Rejecting all attempts by her liberal Jewish family to interest her in social justice, Beryl believes she's escaped their influence when she enters the University of North Carolina as a freshman. Bache nicely captures the madras and Weejuns conformity of Chapel Hill in 1963. There, inevitably, Beryl witnesses the racism and bigotry that entwine with the gentility and social propriety of the South. Longing to fit in, Beryl nonetheless empathizes with the pain of those who don't. These include her roommates, Ashley Vance and Susan Tillery: the former is a blonde debutante impregnated by a South American diplomat's son and scorned by both families; the latter thinks she may be a lesbian. Beryl's moody first lover, David Lazar, left with a shriveled leg after childhood polio, also is aware that he will always be different. Meanwhile, her family periodically urges her to remain faithful to her religious heritage. Outwardly, Beryl remains resolutely uninvolved until the day she reacts instinctively to an act of plain meanness and finds she's taken the first step toward activism. Bache capably reflects the complexities of this volatile period, including the shock of the Kennedy assassination, and her well-etched characters animate this earnest portrait of a young woman's awakening. (May) FYI: Bache's novel Safe Passage became a 1995 movie.
VOYA - Ann Bouricius
It is 1963. Beryl's mother is a civil rights activist, devoting her life to the cause. She is always out of town, leading demonstrations and giving speeches, leaving Beryl feeling abandoned and angry. In an act of rebellion against her mother, Beryl enrolls at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill in the segregated South. Bache fills the story of Beryl's first semester with numerous issues from the '60s. Beryl falls in lust with a student who was "crippled" by childhood polio. She meets a group of student protesters; a new friend has a spontaneous miscarriage; the "first undergraduate colored girl" lives in Beryl's dorm; and one of her roommates, who is in love with a foreign exchange student, becomes pregnant. At home, Beryl's father has lost his job after a McCarthy-era investigation. Her grandmother, who runs the house while Beryl's mother is off serving the cause, is a Russian immigrant. And though the family does not practice Judaism, Beryl's sister wants to be married by a rabbi. At the end of the book, Beryl finds herself instinctively taking the first step toward becoming an activist. She is her mother's daughter. Bache brings so many issues into the story that they become diluted. The reader never gets truly involved in any of them. While the story has the feel of a memoir, Bache's technique detaches us from, rather than draws us into it. Those studying the '60s and those of us who actually were there will take interest in this novel. VOYA Codes: 3Q 2P S (Readable without serious defects, For the YA with a special interest in the subject, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
Library Journal
Bache (Safe Passage, LJ 9/1/88) brings a new twist to the classic tale of teenage rebellion. In the tumultuous years of the 1960s, Beryl longs for a normal family. Instead, she finds herself in a house churning with liberal ideas, a house she dreams of escaping. Her revolutionary mother in particular is a constant source of embarrassment. Beryl's liberation finally occurs when she enters the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Upon arrival, however, she discovers ugly rot beneath the veneer of Southern hospitality; the blatant racism and religious intolerance are impossible to ignore. Beryl tries her hardest to stay neutral, even after she falls for the handicapped David, who hangs out with the campus radicals, yet she soon realizes that even an unwilling daughter must sometimes follow in her mother's footsteps. Though at times the story drifts, Bache has created a realistic teenager in Beryl, a character filled with contradictions and searching for acceptance. Recommended.-Erin Cassin, "Library Journal"
Kirkus Reviews
Bache (Safe Passage, 1993, etc.) delivers an uneven tale of a girl who undergoes typical freshman-year college experiences in highly unusual times.

It's 1963, and Beryl Rosinsky's father is a blacklisted architect, her mother a civil rights activist who is away for weeks at a time demonstrating against racism in the South. Beryl, preoccupied with college plans, can't stay far enough away from her mother's radical beliefs. Leah Rosinsky wants Beryl to pick a school near their home in Washington D.C., but then great-grandmother Bubby dies while visiting the family, and Beryl, feeling irrationally responsible, sinks into depression. To cheer her up, father and grandmother urge her to attend the University of North Carolina, thinking that a change of scene will be beneficial. There, Beryl discovers an unfamiliar world: sororities, stern housemothers, a roommate who's the blondest girl she's ever met, another who spends hours listening to "Louie Louie." Beryl learns to tease her hair and wear Weejuns, but she doesn't quite fit in with this bunch. She spends most of her time with the moody David Lazar, who's bitter about his paralyzed leg. David hangs around the fringes of a liberal crowd, and in their company Beryl becomes more aware of Chapel Hill's racial politics. She grows curious about the picketers in front of Packard's, with its whites-only lunch counter; she notices that Emily, the dorm's only black student, is quietly excluded; she introduces the dorm to bagels and noodle pudding and comes to appreciate her Jewish heritage. But it's not until a roommate is pressured into marriage that Beryl's own activism blossoms and she and her mother edge toward rapprochement.

The writing is often pedestrian, the emotional core of the mother-daughter relationship thinly sketched. But Bache's warm humor and her zest for period detail make for an engrossing portrait of an era.

Product Details

Banks Channel Books
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New Edition
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5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.60(d)

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Activist's Daughter 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago