Oreoby Fran Ross
Born to a Jewish father and black mother who divorce before she is two, Oreo grows up in Philadelphia with her maternal grandparents while her mother tours with a theatrical troupe. Soon after puberty,
This uproariously funny satire about relations between African Americans and Jews is as fresh and outrageous today as when it was first published in 1974.
Born to a Jewish father and black mother who divorce before she is two, Oreo grows up in Philadelphia with her maternal grandparents while her mother tours with a theatrical troupe. Soon after puberty, Oreo heads for New York with a pack on her back to search for her father; but in the big city she discovers that there are dozens of Sam Schwartzes in the phone book, and Oreo's mission turns into a wickedly humorous picaresque quest. The ambitious and playful narrative challenges accepted notions of race, ethnicity, culture, and even the novelistic form itself.
Fran Ross has a witty way with words-Yiddish, black dialect, puns-and she strews them exuberantly throughout her episodic story, along with lists, tables, drawings, equations, menus ('Gefüllte Melonen') and Q-and-A exams (Publishers Weekly).
A biracial girl brought up by her black grandparents sets off on a quest to find her long-lost Jewish father in Ross' brilliant and biting satire. Helen "Honeychile" Clark and Samuel Schwartz met, married (over the mutual disapproval of their parents), and divorced before their daughter Oreo's second birthday. With Helen, a pianist, away on perpetual tour and Samuel generally absent, Oreo (real name: Christine) and her brother, Jimmie C. (real name: Moishe), are raised by their maternal grandparents in Philadelphia. But while Oreo's father has disappeared almost entirely from his daughter's life ("he's a schmuck," Helen explains, when Oreo asks), he's left behind one thing: a note, delivered to Helen and intended for the future Christine. When she "is old enough to decipher the clues written on this piece of paper," he says, "send her to me and I will reveal to her the secret of her birth." And so, after a precocious childhood, during which she's steeped in language—Yiddish from her grandfather (a committed anti-Semite, his business is selling outrageously overpriced mail-order schlock to Jews); English from her tutor, a "renowned linguist and blood donor"; and "Louise-ese," the distinct dialect of her grandmother, to name a few—Oreo leaves home, lunch packed, to embark upon her mission: find her father, learn the secret. Transforming the myth of Theseus and the Labyrinth into a feminist picaresque, Ross sends Oreo into the heart of New York City, where, in a series of absurd, unsettling, and hilarious encounters—no one is safe from Ross' razor-sharp deconstruction—she inches ever closer to her own origin story. Oreo's identity is always in flux, as she performs various personas to suit her situations, switching between registers with superhuman skill. First published in 1974 and now reissued in paperback, Ross' novel, with its Joycean language games and keen social critique, is as playful as it is profound. Criminally overlooked. A knockout.
- Greyfalcon House
- Publication date:
Meet the Author
Fran Ross (1935–1985) grew up in Philadelphia. She wrote Oreo while working as a proofreader and journalist, and then moved to Los Angeles to write for Richard Pryor.
Danzy Senna is the author of several books, including the award-winning novel Caucasia.
Harryette Mullen, a professor of English at UCLA, is the author of six collections of poetry, most recently Recyclopedia, which won a PEN Beyond Margins Award
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >