Book summary: The Deep North


Fanny Howe's heroine, in this brilliant novel of an individual's search for identity, is born of a well-to-do Boston family. Disgusted with her upbringing, and desiring to be for once "on the right side of history," Gemma seeks to better know herself and the "real" world by entering a radically new life. Blessed by her mother's italian ancestry with dark, curling hair and olive complexion, Gemma begins to pass as a Black. Gradually, she dissociates herself from her white friends and family; and pursuing her passionate desire for justice, she loses her old identity.

As her old world passes beyond her reach and her new, self-made one begins to callapse, a further possibility arises, that may or may not be illusory. The Deep North evokes a time when the collapse of the old could bring freedom; Gemma's story reaffirms that choice and change are possible, and reminds us of how much they cost.

In Fanny Howe's tragicomic vision, there are no easy answers, but the questions she poses, the dilemmas of her characters, are those of anyone struggling to transform a world of horrors into a liveable future.

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