Black Ice

Black Ice

4.1 17
by Lorene Cary

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In 1972 Lorene Cary, a bright, ambitious black teenager from Philadelphia, was transplanted into the formerly all-white, all-male environs of the elite St. Paul's School in New Hampshire, where she became a scholarship student in a "boot camp" for future American leaders.  Like any good student, she was determined to succeed.  But Cary was also…  See more details below


In 1972 Lorene Cary, a bright, ambitious black teenager from Philadelphia, was transplanted into the formerly all-white, all-male environs of the elite St. Paul's School in New Hampshire, where she became a scholarship student in a "boot camp" for future American leaders.  Like any good student, she was determined to succeed.  But Cary was also determined to succeed without selling out.  This wonderfully frank and perceptive memoir describes the perils and ambiguities of that double role, in which failing calculus and winning a student election could both be interpreted as betrayals of one's skin.  Black Ice is also a universally recognizable document of a woman's adolescence; it is, as Houston Baker says, "a journey into selfhood that resonates with sober reflection, intellignet passion, and joyous love."

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Cary, a black woman, recounts her challenging years as student and teacher at an elite prep school. Author tour. (Feb.)
Library Journal
In 1972, Cary left her black suburban Philadelphia neighborhood to attend St. Paul's, an elite, formerly all-male prep school in New Hampshire. In these memoirs she describes the tumultuous transitions this new life engenders, as well as the inevitable racism over which she triumphs. After graduating, she returns to St. Paul's as a teacher. Cary tells her story well and with great description, but only at the book's end does the reader understand what she gained and lost as a result of her experience. Given her unique perspective, her narrative would have been much more interesting had she concentrated more on her tenure as a teacher and trustee, and how she responded to people as a result of her experience, instead of relying so much on recounting her school days. For large collections only.-- Danna C. Bell, Marymount Univ . Lib., Arlington, Va.
School Library Journal
YA-- A streetwise kid from West Philly, Cary was the first African-American female to attend St. Paul's, a prestigious New England prep school. With tremendous drive, she set out to achieve self-imposed academic, athletic, and social goals. Although she believed she owed it to the school that accepted her on scholarship, to her family who encouraged and sacrificed, and to those who will come after, she found that the price was great. The emotional distance from her family widened with the geographic separation, and their deep love and pride could not make up for their blindness to her discomfort. While Cary achieved most of her aims, thus justifying the experience to herself, perceptive readers will be pained at her need to do so. Broader in scope than most coming-of-age memoirs, this candid account is sure to strike a sympathetic chord.--Jackie Gropman, Richard Byrd Library, Springfield, VA
From the Publisher
"Probably the most beautifully-written and the most moving African-American autobiographical narrative since Maya Angelou's celebrated I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings."
—Arnold Rampersad

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Random House
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Meet the Author

Lorene Cary’s new novel Pride (Nan A. Talese/ Doubleday, 1998; Anchor 1999) is told in the voices of four friends–“subtle, idiosyncratic characters...whose personalities seem utterly, and affectingly, distinctive,” according to The New York Times Book Review. It also praises the book’s ability to shift “between the staccato directness of black slang and the more formal cadences of standard English....”

The Price of A Child has been selected as the first city-wide One Book, One Philadelphia choice. The novel traces one woman’s escape from slavery and brings alive Philadelphia’s Underground Railroad history. A New York Times reviewer called the writer “a powerful storyteller, frankly sensual, mortally funny, gifted with an ear for the pounce [of] real speech,” and praised the novel as “a generous, sardonic, full-blooded work of fiction.” (Knopf, 1995; Vintage 1996)

Cary’s first book, published by Knopf in 1991, was Black Ice, a memoir of her years first as a black female student, and then teacher, at St. Paul’s, an exclusive New England boarding school. Arnold Rampersad has dubbed it “...probably the most beautifully written and moving African-American autobiographical narrative since Maya Angelou’s celebrated I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.” Black Ice was chosen as a Notable Book for 1992 by the American Library Association.

Lorene Cary was graduated from St. Paul’s School in 1974 and received B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in 1978. She won a Thouron Fellowship for British-U.S. student exchange and studied at Sussex University. She has received Doctorates in Humane Letters from Colby College in Maine, Keene State College in New Hampshire, and Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia.

In 1998 Lorene Cary founded Art Sanctuary, a non-profit lecture and performance series that brings black thinkers and artists to speak and perform at the Church of the Advocate, a National Historic Landmark Building in North Philadelphia.

Currently a lecturer in creative writing at the University of Pennsylvania, where she was a 1998 recipient of the Provost’s Award for Distinguished Teaching, Cary has lectured throughout the U.S. She began writing as an apprentice at Time in 1980, then worked as an Associate Editor at TV Guide, freelanced for such publications as Essence, American Visions, Mirabella, and The Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday Magazine, and served as Contributing Editor for Newsweek in 1993.

In 2002, Cary received the Women’s Way Agent of Change Award; in 2001 the Advocate Community Development Corporation’s Award for Urban Excellence; in 2000, a Philadelphia Historical Society Founder’s Medal for History in Culture; in 1999, the American Red Cross Spectrum Rising Star Award for community service; and in 1995, a Pew Fellowship in the Arts Fellowship. She serves on the usage Panel for The American Heritage Dictionary and the Union Benevolent Association board. Cary is a member of PEN and the Author’s Guild. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, the Rev. Robert C. Smith, and daughters Laura and Zoë.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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