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Virgin Soul: A Novel
     

Virgin Soul: A Novel

3.0 2
by Judy Juanita
 

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From a lauded poet and playwright, a novel of a young woman's life with the Black Panthers in 1960s San Francisco

At first glance, Geniece’s story sounds like that of a typical young woman: she goes to college, has romantic entanglements, builds meaningful friendships, and juggles her schedule with a part-time job. However, she does all of these

Overview

From a lauded poet and playwright, a novel of a young woman's life with the Black Panthers in 1960s San Francisco

At first glance, Geniece’s story sounds like that of a typical young woman: she goes to college, has romantic entanglements, builds meaningful friendships, and juggles her schedule with a part-time job. However, she does all of these things in 1960s San Francisco while becoming a militant member of the Black Panther movement. When Huey Newton is jailed in October 1967 and the Panthers explode nationwide, Geniece enters the organization’s dark and dangerous world of guns, FBI agents, freewheeling sex, police repression, and fatal shoot-outs—all while balancing her other life as a college student.

A moving tale of one young woman’s life spinning out of the typical and into the extraordinary during one of the most politically and racially charged eras in America, Virgin Soul will resonate with readers of Monica Ali and Ntozake Shange.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Juanita is likely to have drawn on her own memories of Oakland and Berkeley in the 1960s to write this story of Geniece Hightower, a tenacious young woman working her way through college who finds herself—first as a journalist, then from within—observing the fledgling Black Panther Party, a radical offshoot of the Black Power movement transforming college campuses. Geniece maintains her focus on graduating even as she experiments with sex, drugs, and guns. Coolly appraising, Geniece notes lingering prejudice within groups of black students and hangers-on—"high yellow" versus dark-skinned; radicals versus "bourgies"; intelligentsia versus militants; male versus female—as she searches for her own sense of belonging. VERDICT Rhythmic language and nervy dialog more than make up for a slightly sagging story arc. Narrated from the perspective of a black female college student, this wild ride through the rise of the militant Black Panther Party highlights differing viewpoints within the civil rights movement of the Vietnam era. Fans of Bernice McFadden will enjoy discovering this new author. [Highlighted in "Editors' Spring Picks: Titles That Have Gotten Us Talking," LJ 2/15/13—Ed.]—Laurie Cavanaugh, Holmes P.L., Halifax, MA
Publishers Weekly
In her semi-autobiographical debut novel, poet and playwright Juanita’s prose immediately immerses the reader in the time and place of its lead character. Raised in Northern California by black middle-class relatives co-opted by white culture, Geniece, a self-described “dark skinned orphan-in-residence,” begins Oakland City College in 1964. Though accustomed to her aunt and uncle’s bourgeois lifestyle, she feels like an outsider with her dark skin, natural hair, and dubious background as a “broken-home baby.” Refusing to ask for help, she lives at the Y and works part-time at the local welfare office, having deferred entry into San Francisco State. Her new freedom and a love affair with a black intellectual further heightens her awareness of being black in white America at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Geniece progresses from middle-class “good girl” to member of the Black Panthers, witnessing and experiencing the poverty, violence, excesses, and rhetoric of the time, a transition handled by Juanita with assured matter-of-factness. Juanita’s prose and style put the reader directly into the head of her protagonist; the unique perspective she offers on a volatile period of American history gives the narrative immediacy and authenticity. Despite a derivative ending, this is a dense book that requires, and is worthy of, attentive reading. Agent: Bonnie Nadell, Frederick Hill Bonnie Hadell Agency. (May)
From the Publisher
Praise for Virgin Soul:

"Witty and deeply engaging . . . about ideas and the passions generated by revolution and romantic love."
Hector Tobar, Los Angeles Times

“A funny and wise read. More than anything, Virgin Soul is a captivating tale about self-love told through the eyes of an unforgettable heroine.”
Essence

“Electrifying . . . Virgin Soul yields an engaging coming-of-age story, one that recalls a turbulent era in captivating prose.”
San Jose Mercury News

“Juanita's prose immediately immerses the reader in the time and place of its lead character. . . [who] progresses from middle-class “good girl” to member of the Black Panthers, witnessing and experiencing the poverty, violence, excesses and rhetoric of the time, a transition handled by Juanita with assured matter-of-factness . . . The unique perspective she offers on a volatile period of American history gives the narrative immediacy and authenticity.”
Publishers Weekly

“[With] rhythmic language and nervy dialog -. . . this wild ride through the rise of the militant Black Panther Party highlights differing viewpoints within the civil rights movement of the Vietnam era. Fans of Bernice McFadden will enjoy discovering this new author.”
Library Journal

“An entertaining story of a young woman's experience with one of the most radical counterculture organizations in America's history.”
Tess Duncan, Bust Magazine

“An intriguing look at coming-of-age in the 1960s."
Eve Gaus, Booklist

"Virgin Soul is first class awesome, every page a crackling hungry flame. This novel about a young studious woman immersed in the black revolutionary experience of 60's Berkeley has a freshness and bright ardor that is rare in this lazy climate of American fiction."
Joy Williams, author of State of Grace

“Hard to believe it's been almost fifty years since the formation of the Black Panthers. The novel captures that time's particular combination of violence and possibility, and the urgency of young people who invested everything in the possibility of change, even as grand rhetoric was undercut by very human failings. Geniece is smart, wounded, hopeful, and tough. It's a pleasure to grow with her through these pages.”
Jean Thompson, author of The Humanity Project and The Year We Left Home

Virgin Soulis Judy Juanita's exciting debut,-a coming-of-age novel set in a time of peace, love and revolution. Juanita presents a heroine, wise, naive and world-wary at eighteen who finds her voice in the Black Panthers' deadly struggle for liberation in 1960s America.-Though a work of historical fiction, Virgin Soulis an intimate work,-heart-breaking and compulsively readable.”
Evan Wright, author of Generation Kill-

“A novel so unlike any I've read in years-a little of Al Young's poetry and humor, a little of Toni Cade Bambara's boldness, but Judy Juanita has given us a Bay Area in her own inimitable voice, which is California like no one else. She lays it out for you. With this writer, there is no half-steppin'.”
Susan Straight, author of Between Heaven and Here

“Intense, riveting, spellbinding, this tour de force places the reader on the frontlines of the 1960's counter culture and the Black Power movement, one of the most turbulent times in American history. More than a coming of age novel, Virgin Soul is ultimately a meditation on love. It's about the love of Geniece's biological family and the family of radicals who adopt her. A must read.”
Robert Alexander, author of Servant of the People

Kirkus Reviews
A debut novel about a young woman's coming-of-age with the Black Panther Party has more emotional power than depth. There's no indication that the novel's protagonist, a naïve collegiate who wants to be a writer, is a stand-in for the female author, but the fiction nonetheless often reads like memoir or like a young-adult rendering of a riotous, tumultuous era. As a freshman, the virginal Geniece has her locker next to Huey Newton's girlfriend, and as the account proceeds through her sophomore, junior and senior years, she encounters plenty of other prominent members of the Black Power movement--Stokely Carmichael, Eldridge Cleaver, Bobby Seale--acquires a boyfriend who gives her a reading list, becomes radicalized, loses her virginity. She also must come to terms with the challenge posed by her aunt: "Be who you is cuz you ain't who you isn't." But during a period of life when everyone experiences so much change, in the midst of such a tumultuous era, Geniece has trouble deciding exactly who she is. "I knew I was becoming militant," she says. "I just didn't know if I wanted to become a militant." And, later: "Sure, I had fancied myself militant. That fit my naturally rebellious nature. But to be a militant was frightful. Yet intriguing." Is such militancy more than a fashion statement? Instructed to dress in the fatigues of the movement, she responds to a man with whom she's having a politically charged affair: "I know you don't think that's for me. They're not even feminine....Chanting ‘off the pig' is as masculine as I'm getting." With any attempt to balance romance and political commitment, she runs into one of the movement's contradictions: that women are seen as less equal than men in the fight for equality, reduced to "sexual cannon fodder in the midst of war." The novel skates along the surface of '60s political upheaval and the Black Power movement, making those times seem like a phase that the protagonist (and its author?) were passing through.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101622858
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/18/2013
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
File size:
859 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
Praise for Virgin Soul:

"Witty and deeply engaging . . . about ideas and the passions generated by revolution and romantic love."
Hector Tobar, Los Angeles Times

“A funny and wise read. More than anything, Virgin Soul is a captivating tale about self-love told through the eyes of an unforgettable heroine.”
Essence

“Electrifying . . . Virgin Soul yields an engaging coming-of-age story, one that recalls a turbulent era in captivating prose.”
San Jose Mercury News

“Juanita’s prose immediately immerses the reader in the time and place of its lead character. . . [who] progresses from middle-class “good girl” to member of the Black Panthers, witnessing and experiencing the poverty, violence, excesses and rhetoric of the time, a transition handled by Juanita with assured matter-of-factness . . . The unique perspective she offers on a volatile period of American history gives the narrative immediacy and authenticity.”
Publishers Weekly

“[With] rhythmic language and nervy dialog  . . . this wild ride through the rise of the militant Black Panther Party highlights differing viewpoints within the civil rights movement of the Vietnam era. Fans of Bernice McFadden will enjoy discovering this new author.”
Library Journal
 
“An entertaining story of a young woman’s experience with one of the most radical counterculture organizations in America’s history.”
—Tess Duncan, Bust Magazine
 
“An intriguing look at coming-of-age in the 1960s."
—Eve Gaus, Booklist
 
"Virgin Soul is first class awesome, every page a crackling hungry flame. This novel about a young studious woman immersed in the black revolutionary experience of 60's Berkeley has a freshness and bright ardor that is rare in this lazy climate of American fiction."
Joy Williams, author of State of Grace
 
“Hard to believe it’s been almost fifty years since the formation of the Black Panthers. The novel captures that time’s particular combination of violence and possibility, and the urgency of young people who invested everything in the possibility of change, even as grand rhetoric was undercut by very human failings. Geniece is smart, wounded, hopeful, and tough. It's a pleasure to grow with her through these pages.”
Jean Thompson, author of The Humanity Project and The Year We Left Home
 
Virgin Soul is Judy Juanita’s exciting debut, a coming-of-age novel set in a time of peace, love and revolution. Juanita presents a heroine, wise, naive and world-wary at eighteen who finds her voice in the Black Panthers’ deadly struggle for liberation in 1960s America. Though a work of historical fiction, Virgin Soul is an intimate work, heart-breaking and compulsively readable.”
Evan Wright, author of Generation Kill   
 
“A novel so unlike any I’ve read in years—a little of Al Young’s poetry and humor, a little of Toni Cade Bambara’s boldness, but Judy Juanita has given us a Bay Area in her own inimitable voice, which is California like no one else. She lays it out for you. With this writer, there is no half-steppin’.”
Susan Straight, author of Between Heaven and Here
 
“Intense, riveting, spellbinding, this tour de force places the reader on the frontlines of the 1960’s counter culture and the Black Power movement, one of the most turbulent times in American history. More than a coming of age novel, Virgin Soul is ultimately a meditation on love. It’s about the love of Geniece’s biological family and the family of radicals who adopt her. A must read.”
Robert Alexander, author of Servant of the People
 

Meet the Author

Judy Juanita’s poetry and fiction have been published widely, and her plays have been produced in the Bay Area and New York City. She has taught writing at Laney College in Oakland since 1993. This is her first novel. She lives in Oakland.

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Virgin Soul: A Novel 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just ok.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago