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Book details
  • Genre:FICTION
  • SubGenre:African American / Historical
  • Language:English
  • Pages:258
  • Paperback ISBN:9781735809717

An American Daughter of Brown

by Bari S. Robinson

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Overview

An American Daughter of Brown is an historical novel set in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education in the year 1955, It is a coming-of-age story of Lauren Sullivan, an eight year-old lower middle class African-American girl who very reluctantly participates in the integration of an elementary school in her mid-western American city. Having come from a previously all-Black school with teachers who recognize and encourage her gifted abilities, she is thrown into a predominately white school where she is ignored by her teacher and bored by her classroom studies. With the help of her enlightened mother and grandparents, she learns to navigate the racism and continue her academic advancement. As she grows into adulthood and struggles to find her own identity, she suffers through domestic violence and a near rape. Lauren learns that she must refuse to allow the intense forces of racism and sexism to define or limit her. She is forced to learn to confront those negative forces and communicate her views and positions strongly and clearly even though voices such as hers are not welcomed or even acknowledged by those in authority in and outside her school and community. Armed with such knowledge and the continued honing of these skills, Lauren achieves a university degree, which includes a junior year abroad at the Sorbonne in Paris, France. There, she falls in love with a handsome young fellow student who grew up in Brittany and whose parents fought in the French Resistance during the Second World War. As a result of her experiences in France, including a visit at the home of her new friend's parents, she learns that a subtle racism is alive and well, even in very liberal, genteel post-war France. However, the experience gives her perspective and brings her view of racism and sexism full circle. She is thus ready to return to the United States in order to take her place as an adult African-American woman.

Description

An American Daughter of Brown is an historical novel set in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education in the year 1955, in the geographic center of the United States. It is a coming-of-age story of Lauren Sullivan, an eight year-old lower middle class African-American girl who learns that she is no longer able to attend the elementary school that she loves and in which she thrived academically due to a new law that requires the integration of the public schools. When the story begins, her mother, an elementary school teacher, her grandmother, a piano teacher, and her grandfather, a railway mail clerk, all with whom she and her little brother Danny live, are attempting to hide their anxiety regarding the newly integrated experience Lauren and her little brother are about to begin. The reader learns about the misgivings of her enlightened Black family related not only to possible violence, but also the level of teaching the children will receive. The children walk to school with their aunt, one of the two Black teachers chosen to integrate Lauren's new school. Lauren and her family find that the danger they were anxious about did not come in the form of violence, but the benign neglect of Lauren's teacher, who allowed Lauren to absent herself from class two or three times per week to play jacks in the restroom. On one of those occasions Lauren is discovered by her aunt, who relates the incident to Lauren's mother. This sets in motion a series of events that provide the first lesson Lauren receives in how to navigate racism.

When Lauren's mother re-marries a couple of years later, Lauren finds herself in an abusive home with her mother and new stepfather, along with two new siblings. It is there that she gains additional survival skills. As she matures into puberty, Lauren narrowly avoids an attempted gang rape while on her first date, involving members of her high school football team. After trying to survive the emotional and social aftermath of that experience alone, Lauren, with her mother's guidance and intervention in the situation, learns her first lesson in confronting a male-dominated environment to retain her self-respect.

The story takes the reader through Lauren's maturation process, which always includes the struggle for civil rights in America as a backdrop. It culminates after Lauren matriculates into college and spends her junior year abroad as a student at the Sorbonne in Paris. There, Lauren falls in love with a handsome French student from Brittany. When he takes Lauren home to see some of provincial France and his home town of St. Malo, he introduces her to his parents, both former members of the French Resistance during the Second World War. Lauren's experience with racism and sexism come full circle when she learns that a subtle racism is alive and well, even in very liberal, genteel post-war France. As a result, she is ready to return to the United States and take her place as an adult African-American woman, prepared to take on the racism and sexism of her own country and in her own life.

Readers of An American Daughter of Brown will experience the nuances of overt and subtle racism as experienced through the eyes of a child who becomes a young woman in the 1950's and 1960's. Instead of witnessing violent racism as seen in news reports of the period, or the stark contrast between very poor, illiterate Blacks and affluent whites, the reader will undertake a journey with a young girl from an educated, enlightened family who must navigate the effects of a slightly more subtle racism just as debilitating. The reader will also learn that Black women, no matter how educated or intelligent, must also navigate sexism successfully in order to succeed. Through all of this, the modern reader has an opportunity to analyze whether and how far the U.S. has actually progressed in its quest for civil rights.

About the author

Bari S. Robinson is an attorney who practices law in the San Francisco Bay Area. She received a B.S. in French Education from the University of Kansas. She also holds a Master's in French from the State University of New York at Binghamton and a Juris Doctor from BerkeleyLaw, the University of California at Berkeley. Ms. Robinson is also the author of Cuba's Guarded Promise. A Country on the Cusp of Enormous Change, a work of non-fiction. She currently resides in Oakland, California.

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