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Poet/novelist Muske-Dukes's latest work of fiction (after Dear Digby) follows a young, left-wing poet as she strives for social justice in the volatile atmosphere of New York City during the mid-1970s. Holly's life is complicated by entanglements with two very different men, by confusion about her political position, and most of all by the poetry workshop she teaches at the women's detention center on Rikers Island. Holly's consciousness about society and culture is raised by the diverse class population, particularly the amazing (and possibly insane) Polly Lyle Clement. Claiming descent from Mark Twain via his liaison with an African American beauty, Polly asserts that her famous ancestor communicates with her, which she demonstrates by falling into eerie trances and speaking in a male voice with a Southern accent. Holly's determination to help her disturbed student sends her into the dark and frightening worlds of prisoner abuse and racial discrimination, testing her ideals to the utmost. Based on the author's personal experience, this is an offbeat and stimulating story, marked by painterly images evoked through precise, energetic language. Recommended for most fiction collections.
—Starr E. Smith