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Betsey Brown: a novel

Book Cover
Average Rating
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press,
Pub. Date:
c1985.
Edition:
1st ed.
Language:
English
Reading Level:
IL: UG - BL: 5.7 - AR Pts: 8
Description
This is a unique and vividly told novel about a girl named Betsey Brown, an African American seventh-grader growing up in St. Louis, Missouri. While rendering a complete portrait of this girl, author Ntozake Shange also profiles her friends, her family, her home, her school, and her world. This world, though a work of fiction, is based closely and carefully on actual history, specifically on the nationwide school desegregation events of the Civil Rights movement in America's recent past. As such, Betsey Brown is a historical novel that will speak to and broaden the perspectives of readers both familiar with and unaware of America's domestic affairs of 1950s and 1960s. Shange has set her story in the autumn of 1959, the year St. Louis started to desegregate its schools. In May of 1954, in its ruling on Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka--a verdict now seen by many as the origin of the Civil Rights movement--the United States Supreme Court outlawed school segregation. The novel is firmly located in the wake of this landmark ruling; the plot of Shange's novel and the history of America's quest for integration during the Civil Rights era are fundamentally entwined. Thus textual references abound to the watershed events at Little Rock's Central High School in the September of 1957, for example, and to "fire-bombings and burningcrosses" in the South as well as "'battalions of police and crowds of crackers'" at a demonstration in St. Louis. Betsey is the oldest child in a large, remarkable, and slightly eccentric African American family. Her father is a doctor who wakes his children each morning with point-blank questions about African history and Black culture while beating on a conga drum; her mother is a beautiful, refined, confident, and strong-willed social worker who is overwhelmed by the vast size of her young family and who cares very little for "all that nasty colored music." Indeed, Betsey's whole existence can be seen as a perceptive, adventuresome, and still-developing hybrid of her parents' most distinctive qualities. Her feelings of internal conflict are often clearer or easier to identify when seen as the collision of her father's dreams and her mother's manners, or her father's music and her mother's cosmetics. There are several fascinating characters in this novel--and encountering, describing, and trying to figure out these characters will appeal to students of all backgrounds--but the two characters who, after Betsey, most influence the directions, themes, and issues of this tale are Betsey's mother and father, Jane and Greer. Their her parents'' difficult marriage, like the difficult era of desegregation that has only begun in St. Louis and the rest of America, is the realistic, conflicted, yet ultimately hopeful backdrop before which Betsey's lip-synching, poem-reciting, soul-searching, truth-seeking, tree-climbing, and fact-finding take place. In fact, her parents'' stubborn disagreements, heartfelt reconciliations, past glories, and future worries are all, at various times in the book, anchored or else set adrift by the activities of theireldest daughter (and first teenager!). Betsey's running away sends her parents into a vicious fight, while her subsequent return seems to bring them closer together (if only temporarily). As a novel, Betsey Brown is panoramic yet personal. It tells us what being a Black student in the early days of American desegregation was like by showing us what being Betsey Brown is like. This is an episodic, character-driven saga of the Black experience in St. Louis at the end of the "Fabulous Fifties," but it is also a story about the many and various--and basically familiar--growing pains of a precocious, passionate, spunky young protagonist. We see Betsey fall in love; make friends; say prayers; argue with, look after, inspire, and ignore her younger siblings; run away from home; return to those who love and value her above all else; and switch from a school she knows and enjoys to a school on the other side of town where she is a minority and an outcast. We see Betsey outside the very door of her womanhood, we are told all about the steps and path that have brought her to this door, and we are left to wonder at what she will find beyond it.
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ISBN:
9780312134341
9780312077273
Reading Level:
UG
Level 5.7, 8 Points
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Grouping Information

Grouped Work ID 6bcb3a07-d59b-1ec5-9890-b6cb9ab339f8
Full title betsey brown
Author shange ntozake
Grouping Category book
Last Update 2018-05-23 23:18:59PM
Last Indexed 2018-06-17 01:26:59AM

Solr Details

accelerated_reader_interest_level UG
accelerated_reader_point_value 8
accelerated_reader_reading_level 5.7
author Shange, Ntozake.
author_display Shange, Ntozake
available_at_school Maplewood High
collection_school Fiction
detailed_location_school Maplewood High - Teen Fiction
display_description
format_category_school Books
format_school Book
id 6bcb3a07-d59b-1ec5-9890-b6cb9ab339f8
isbn 9780312077273, 9780312134341
item_details ils:CARL0000045148|A01255038|Maplewood High - Teen Fiction|F SHA|||1|false|false|||||On Shelf||6E550||
itype_school Book
last_indexed 2018-06-17T06:26:59.323Z
lexile_score -1
literary_form Fiction
literary_form_full Fiction
local_callnumber_school F SHA
owning_library_school Schools
owning_location_school Maplewood High
primary_isbn 9780312134341
publishDate 1985
record_details ils:CARL0000045148|Book|Books|1st ed.|English|St. Martin's Press,|c1985.|207 p. ; 22 cm.
recordtype grouped_work
scoping_details_school
Bib IdItem IdGrouped StatusStatusLocally OwnedAvailableHoldableBookableIn Library Use OnlyLibrary OwnedHoldable PTypesBookable PTypesLocal Url
ils:CARL0000045148 A01255038 On Shelf On Shelf false true true false false true
subject_facet Saint Louis (Mo.) -- Fiction
title_display Betsey Brown : a novel
title_full Betsey Brown : a novel / Ntozake Shange
title_short Betsey Brown :
title_sub a novel