Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart

( 5 )

Overview

Joyce Carol Oates adds to her extraordinary body of work with this stunning novel of violence and love. At the heart of the story are two people, Iris Courtney, who is white, and handsome Jinx Fairchild, the black basketball player who, in protecting Iris, kills a white man.

Iris is the only witness to the crime.

The two of them are growing up in the early 1950s in a New York industrial town where racial boundaries keep people apart—or bring ...

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Overview

Joyce Carol Oates adds to her extraordinary body of work with this stunning novel of violence and love. At the heart of the story are two people, Iris Courtney, who is white, and handsome Jinx Fairchild, the black basketball player who, in protecting Iris, kills a white man.

Iris is the only witness to the crime.

The two of them are growing up in the early 1950s in a New York industrial town where racial boundaries keep people apart—or bring them together in explosive scenes of fear or desire. The secret link between Iris and Jinx is not only their attraction to each other, but a murder … and a bond of passion and guilt is formed between them. How this one irrevocable, tragic act shapes their lives and alters their destinies becomes Joyce Carol Oates’ finest, emotion-packed novel—a work the critics are calling a masterpiece, the best work of America’s best writer of contemporary realism.

Joyce Carol Oates is in full fire here. The motifs and themes of this rich, intricately textured, realistic novel belong to the American experience of the 1950s and '60s. But the vision of life that animates them is so clear and unflinching that the past comes to us with the force of revelation. "Fiction of extraordinary imaginative power."--The New York Times Book Review. Nominated for the National Book Award.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Racial disharmony from the mid-'50s to mid-'60s propels this tale of the love that binds a black man and a white woman in an upstate New York industrial town wracked by violence and murder. Protagonists Jinx and Iris are ``brilliantly portrayed,'' said PW. ``Oates is a master at realizing the social forces that twist the fates of her characters.'' 50,000 first printing. (Mar.)
Library Journal
The ever-prolific Oates is on familiar ground in her newest novel, which treats the seedy side of a working-class city in upstate New York in the 1950s. Her heroine will be familiar to Oates fans, too: Iris Courtney is the only child of a broken home, gambling father, and alcoholic mother; she's waif-like, intelligent, and sensitive and carries with her the air of a victim. When a black classmate--handsome, academic, athletic Jinx Fairchild--murders mean ``white trash'' Little Red Garlock to protect Iris from Red's lewd advances, Iris carries the secret through her adolescence. The Courtney, Garlock, and Fairchild families are here used to explore racism at a time of awakening social consciousness, but Iris alone seems fully imagined. A large, significant work that will please Oates fans. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/89.-- Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., Va.
Marilynne Robinson
Fiction of extraordinarily imaginative power. -- The New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452265813
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/28/1991
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 284,942
  • Product dimensions: 5.38 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Joyce Carol Oates

In addition to many prize-winning and bestselling novels, including We Were the Mulvaneys, Black Water, and Because It Is Bitter and Because It Is My Heart (available in Plume editions), Joyce Carol Oates is the author of a number of works of gothic fiction including Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque (Plume), a 1995 World Fantasy Award nominee; and Zombie (Plume), winner of the 1996 Bram Stoker Award for Best Horror Novel, awarded by the Horror Writers' Association. In 1994, Oates received the Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award in Horror Fiction. She is the editor of American Gothic Tales and her latest novel is Broke Heart Blues (Dutton). She lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Rosamond Smith
    2. Hometown:
      Princeton, New Jersey
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 16, 1938
    2. Place of Birth:
      Lockport, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Syracuse University, 1960; M.A., University of Wisconsin, 1961

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 12, 2010

    A Masterpiece

    I had previously thought that the Gravedigger's Daughter, also by Joyce Carol Oates, was my favorite novel. This rivals that work in every way. Truly a bitter sweet masterpiece.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2005

    still thinking about it..

    This was the first book i ever read by Joyce Carol Oates. It was amazing. Its not the plot I loved, or even the book as a whole, but the mind and thoughts of the young girl. She had such vivd thoughts, feelings, emotions. I am still thinking about that book even after I have long since finished it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2001

    Haunting. . .

    This is one of those books you don't stop thinking about even after you've finished reading it. The characters are very real, never one-dimensional. Although the time setting is in the 50's and 60's, the issues, moral challenges and thought processes have a timelessness about them. A fictional novel that FEELS like real life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2001

    Believability helps make it as good as it is...

    Joyce Carol Oates describes the people and places in 'Upstate' New York of the fifties as well as John Updike or Philip Roth. Naturally, her feminine perspective differs from theirs and this book is worth reading to watch her characters unfold over a period of about ten years in a story that seems like it really happened.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews

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