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Black girl in Paris /
Shay Youngblood.
New York : Riverhead Books, 2000.
238 p. : ill., maps ; 22 cm.
1573221511 (alk. paper), 9781573221511 (alk. paper)
More Details
New York : Riverhead Books, 2000.
1573221511 (alk. paper)
9781573221511 (alk. paper)
catalogue key
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Shay Youngblood is a playwright and winner of a Pushcart Prize and a nominee for QPB's New Voices award, she lives in New York City.
This item was nominated for the following awards:
Lambda Literary Awards, USA, 2001 : Nominated
First Chapter

Chapter One

museum guide

Paris. September 1986. Early morning. She is lying

on her back in a hard little bed with her eyes closed, dreaming

in French.Langston was here. There is a black girl in Paris

lying in a bed on the fifth floor of a hotel in the Latin

Quarter. Her eyes are closed against the soft pink dawn. Delicate

maps of light line her face, tattoo the palms of her hands, the insides

of her thighs, the soles of her feet like lace.Jimmy was

here. She sleeps while small, feminine hands plant a bomb

under the seat of a train headed toward the city of Lyon.

    James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Gabriel Garcia Márquez and Milan Kundera all had lived in Paris as if it had been part of their training for greatness. When artists and writers spoke of Paris in their memoirs and letters home it was with reverence. Those who have been and those who still dream mention the quality of the light, the taste of the wine, the joie de vivre , the pleasures of the senses, a kind of freedom to be anonymous and also new. I wanted that kind of life even though I was a woman and did not yet think of myself as a writer. I was a mapmaker.

    I remember the long, narrow room, the low slanted ceiling, the bare whitewashed walls, the spotted, musty brown carpet. To my left a cracked porcelain sink with a spigot that ran only cold water. On its ledge a new bar of soap, a blue ragged-edged washcloth shaped like a pocket, and a green hand towel. A round window at the foot of the bed looked out onto the quai St-Michel, a street that runs along the Seine, a river flowing like strong coffee through the body of Paris. The quai was lined with book stalls and painters with their easels and wooden plates of wet fall colors.

    I am there again. It's as if I have somebody else's eyes. The Paris at the foot of my bed looks as if it were painted leaf by leaf and stone by stone with tiny brushstrokes. People dressed in dark coats hurrying along the narrow sidewalks look like small black birds. Time is still when I look out at the pale, gray sky, down to the silvery river below, which by midmorning will be crowded with double-decker boats filled with tourists. In the river, on an island, I can see the somber face of Notre-Dame cathedral and farther down, an enormous, block-long, turreted, pale stone building that looks like a castle, but which I am told is part of the Palais de Justice, which houses in its basement the Conciergerie, the prison where Queen Marie Antoinette waited to have her head chopped off and the writer James Baldwin spent one night after being accused of stealing a hotel bedsheet. Even the prisons here are beautiful, and everything is so old. Back home you can see the bars on the windows of buildings and houses, so you know that they are prisons. Sometimes bondage is invisible.

    The first time I woke up in Paris I thought I'd been wounded. My body ached that first morning. My eyes, nose, and lips were puffy, as if my face had been soaked in water. My skin was dry and ashy. My joints were tight. When I stretched the full length of my body, bones popped and crunched like loose pebbles in a jar. The dream I woke up with was like a first memory, the most vivid of all the old movies that projected themselves onto the me that was. I woke up with a piece of broken glass clutched in my left hand. There was a small spot of blood on the sheets underneath me.

    Before I left home I cut my hair close to my scalp so I could be a free woman with free thoughts, open to all possibilities. I was making a map of the world. In ancient times maps were made to help people find food, water, and the way back home. I needed a map to help me find love and language, and since one didn't exist, I'd have to invent one, following the trails and signs left by other travelers. I didn't know what I wanted to be, but I knew I wanted to be the kind of woman who was bold, took chances, and had adventures. I wanted to travel around the world. It was my little-girl dream.

    I woke up suddenly one morning, at dawn. As the light began to bleed between the blinds into my room, the blank wall in front of me dissolved into a colorful collage by Romare Bearden of a naked black woman eating a watermelon. Against the iridescent blue background lay the outline of the city of Paris. The woman was me. This was my first sign of the unusual shape of things to come. By the time I came back to myself I was booked on an Air France flight to Paris. Paris would kill me or make me strong.

    In 1924 at the age of twenty-two, Langston Hughes, the Negro Poet Laureate of Harlem, author of The Big Sea , arrived in Paris with seven dollars in his pocket. He worked as a doorman, second cook, and dishwasher at a jazz club on rue Pigalle. He wrote blues poems and stories and lived a poet's life. He wrote about the joys of living as well as the heartache.

    My name is Eden, and I'm not afraid of anything anymore. Like my literary godfathers who came to Paris before me, I intend to live a life in which being black won't hold me back.

    Baldwin's prophetic essays ... The Fire Next Time ... No Name in the Street ... Nobody Knows My Name ... were like the sound of trumpets in my ears. Baldwin knew things that I hoped someday he would tell me. The issues in my mind were still black versus white, right versus wrong, good versus evil, and me against the world.

    The spring before I arrived in Paris, the city was on alert. I cut out an article from a news magazine that listed the horrible facts: April 2, a bomb aboard a TWA plane exploded over Athens, killing four Americans; April 5, an explosion in a West Berlin disco killed an American soldier and a Turkish woman, 230 people were wounded; April 15, in retaliation, President Ronald Reagan bombed Muammar Qadaffi's headquarters in Tripoli, killing fifteen civilians. Three American hostages were killed in Lebanon in response. April 17, a British woman was arrested in London's Heathrow airport, carrying explosives planted in her luggage by her Jordanian fiancé, who had intended to blow up a Tel Aviv-bound El Al flight. Terrorism was so popular that there were full-page ads in the International Herald Tribune offering hijacking insurance to frequent flyers.

    I was no stranger to terrorism ...

    I was born in Birmingham, Alabama, where my parents witnessed the terror of eighteen bombs in six years. During that time the city was nicknamed Bombingham. When the four little girls were killed by a segregationist's bomb at church one Sunday morning in 1963, I had just started to write my name. I still remember writing theirs ... Cynthia ... Addie Mae ... Carole ... Denise ... Our church sent letters of condolence to their families. We moved to Georgia, but I did not stop being afraid of being blown to pieces on an ordinary day if God wasn't looking. I slept at the foot of my parents' bed until I was eleven years old, when my mother convinced me that the four little girls were by now colored angels and would watch over me as I slept. But I didn't sleep much, and for most of my childhood I woke up each morning tired from so much running in my dreams--from faceless men in starched white sheets, from policemen with dogs, from firemen with water hoses. I was living in two places, night and day. In the night place I ran but they never caught me, and in the morning brown angels kissed my face. I woke up with tears on my pillow.

    I was no stranger to terror ...

    When I was thirteen years old and living in Georgia I was in love with a girl in my class named Rosaleen and with her older brother, Anthony. Rosaleen and I played touching games in her bedroom, games she'd learned from her brother. We never spoke when we were naked and lying still on the carpet waiting for a hand to move an arm, bend a knee, for lips to kiss, for fingers to caress like feathers. We created still-life compositions with each other's pliant limbs, we were corpses, and for a few moments, a few hours, death seemed like something beautiful I wanted for the rest of my life. The fear of being caught heightened the sensations she awakened in me. Once when Anthony was home from college he sent Rosaleen downstairs to watch television, and he and I played the touching games. In Anthony's eyes I was a pretty brown-skinned girl. He whispered a continuous stream of compliments about my strange narrow eyes, my soft, still tender new breasts that filled his hands. He called me "Sugar Mama." His hands were rough, his smell musky and rank. I didn't struggle against the thick fingers that pushed between my legs, but let the hardness search the stillness inside of me. My feelings about Rosaleen and Anthony created a confusion in me, a terror of choosing. Anthony touched my body, but Rosaleen was the one I wanted to touch me inside. I was afraid to lose Rosaleen, but eventually I did. She got pregnant by a boy she met at the county fair. The baby was sickly and soon died. Rosaleen was sent away to live with relatives in Philadelphia. I never saw her again, but I had been touched by her in a way that would make all other touches fade quickly. After Rosaleen and Anthony I was terrified that no one would ever love me again, that desire was a bubble that would burst when I touched it. Years later I met Leo, who loved my body for a while, then left me when I felt I needed him most.

    A bomb can kill you instantly, love can make you wish you were dead.

    Within days of my arrival in Paris four separate explosions killed three people and wounded 170. There was an atmosphere of paranoia. The tension was visible in people's eyes. Everyone was suspicious. Every abandoned bag standing alone for more than a few minutes could be filled with explosives set to kill. Anyone could be a terrorist. Bombs were exploding all over the city the fall I arrived, and that made tickets to Paris cheap and suicide unnecessary. I would become a witness. I left my body and another me took over, someone who had no fear of bombs or dying.

    It is 1986. I am twenty-six years old. I have 140 dollars folded flat and pressed into my shoes between sock and sole. It is what's left of the 200 dollars I arrived with two days ago. I have no friends here and barely remember my two years of college French. I think that my ticket to Paris will be the beginning or the end of me.

    In 1948 James Baldwin, author of Another Country , then twenty-five years old, arrived in Paris with forty dollars. During the Sixties civil rights movement he led marches, protests, and voter registration drives. His angry, articulate essays on race shocked France and compelled witnesses to action. He was awarded the medal of Legion of Honor by the French government. I was a witness .

    Josephine Baker arrived in 1925, at age eighteen. She danced naked except for a string of bananas around her waist, sang the "Marseillaise" in beaded gowns, and was decorated by the French government for her efforts during World War II. She created a new tribe in her chôteau with children from every ethnic group. Like the character she played in the film Princess Tam Tam , she represented to the French the exotic black, sexually independent woman who could learn to speak French and pick up enough manners to dine with royalty.

    I was transformed.

    Bricktop arrived penniless and taught Paris how to dance the Charleston. Richard Wright was already a celebrity; he joined the French intellectuals and gave voice to the Negro problem in America. There were others and there will be more. My heroes. They dared to make a way where there was none, and I want to be just like them.

    I was born again.

    This is the place where it happened, where it will happen again.

    For once I slept without dreaming. I woke up when the plane touched down on the runway and heard the entire cabin clap and cheer the pilot and crew for our safe landing. As we taxied along the runway I pulled my small French-English dictionary out of my bag to look up in the phrase section how to take a cab. Across the aisle from me was a young woman who had slept through most of the flight. She was blonde with olive skin and had a long face and pretty features. She wore jeans and a black sweater and held a Museum of Modern Art gift bag in one hand and a large Louis Vuitton satchel on her lap. The satchel looked real, not like the imitations everyone at home wanted. I assumed she was American.

    "It's my first time in Paris. What's the best way to get to the city? Is there a bus?"

    "We can share a taxi if you like. Where are you going?" Her French accent was a surprise.

    "I don't know. I was going to ask the driver for a hotel. I don't have much money."

    She looked at me as if I was crazy.

    "You don't know anyone?"

    I shook my head.

    "It will be very difficult to find something not expensive." She pursed her lips and blew into the air, a French gesture I would come to recognize and imitate. She said that the students would be arriving for classes that week.

    "Many of the hotels not too dear will be ... complet . You understand?"

    I quickly flipped through my dictionary and learned that the hotels would be full, no vacancies.

    "My name is ... Je m'appelle Eden ."

    "Delphine. Come," she commanded. We got up and joined the line of passengers exiting the plane. Charles de Gaulle airport was a maze of lines, people talking fast, signs I couldn't understand, and everywhere, guards carrying machine guns and holding fierce-looking dogs on short leashes. Then I began to be a little afraid of what I had done. I didn't know anyone, my French was practically nonexistent, and I had only enough money to last a few weeks until I found a job. But there was no going back. I took a deep breath and followed Delphine to baggage claim. I was relieved to see my duffel bag circle round in front of me. We stood in long, crooked lines in customs. One for citizens of France and several for everyone else. I gave Delphine twenty dollars to change into francs for me. She said she would meet me outside. When she was out of sight I had the fleeting thought that at home I would never be stupid enough to give a stranger money and watch her walk away, but I was in Paris and I was giving myself up to new angels.

    When I offered up my passport, the customs officer, who had had a dry, grim expression for all the passengers before me, looked at me, then back at my passport. He scanned my short natural hair, high forehead, slow, sleepy eyes, broad nose, and full lips, as if to make sure the brown-skinned girl in his hands was me. He pushed my passport toward me and startled me by speaking in English. "Welcome to France, mademoiselle. Enjoy your visit."

    During the ride to the city Delphine told me that she was a student at the "Science Po," the Ecole des Sciences Politiques, which I later learned was comparable to Harvard. She wanted to be a lawyer and in the current term she was studying English. When I told her I was a writer her eyes grew large and she could not hide her admiration, as if seeing in me something special she had not noticed before.

    "I admire the dedication of the artist, but nothing is certain for you. I am not so brave." She looked out the window.

    I did not feel brave, there was nothing else I thought I could do or that held my interest in the same way. The taxi was an old white Mercedes with a gray leather interior. The driver looked African and spoke French. We had loaded our bags in the trunk and got inside. Delphine had given the driver an address and instructions in rapid French. We sat in silence looking out at early morning Paris. The cars on the highway seemed to go faster than in the States. I was so tired I kept nodding off. When the taxi stopped on busy rue de l'Université, in front of a photography shop, I opened my wallet and Delphine took out some of the bills she had exchanged for me and added some of her own.

    She pointed out the Sorbonne from the foot of the hill before we turned into the lobby of her apartment building. I followed her up four flights of stairs. She opened the door onto a small studio with high ceilings and cream-colored walls that made the room seem much bigger than it really was. Books and a small compact-disc collection lined the longest wall in the small but neat room, a high-tech stereo system and a small TV found space there as well. A bare desk sat in front of the windows, overlooking the street. Two double futons were stacked on top of each other in a corner. The most beautiful feature of the room was the set of tall french windows covered by metal shutters. Delphine opened the windows, letting in the light and noise of the street below. I went to the windows and looked down into the street. I saw a shop displaying cartons of brightly colored fruit, a florist's shop with spring in huge vivid bouquets that brightened the gray morning. She pointed me in the direction of the toilet. The bathroom fixtures were odd and ancient-looking. I did not recognize my face in the smoky gilt-framed mirror above the wide porcelain sink. There were dark circles under my eyes and my hair was so short. It was still me, a new me in a new place ready to begin again. I felt lost. After my father's funeral I felt as if I were drift-inside, as if anyone could disappear. Few things were certain. My father was dead.

    Delphine made us strong cups of coffee in the tiny red-and-white kitchen area--miniature appliances lined up under tall cabinets. Stale bread crumbs were scattered over the counter, a knife left sticking out of a pot of butter. We added sugar to the coffee and drank it black from heavy yellow bowls.

    "What will you do?" she asked, sitting crosslegged on the futons next to me.

    "I thought I could look for a job as a secretary or an au pair." I sipped the coffee and felt the caffeine spreading through my chest.

    "I have heard the American Church has a place to look for jobs. I can check the newspaper for you. There is a black American writer who is every day at a bookstore close to here. He might help you. I think he is a poet."

    Delphine made two phone calls, then we left the apartment to look for a room. Her apartment was in the heart of the Latin Quarter, near the boulevard St-Michel. The streets were filled with people even though it was still early in the morning. Delphine was right, the less expensive hotels in the guidebook were complet , and I could not afford the more expensive ones. I could see that she felt pity for me and that she was determined to help me. Perhaps she thought an artist who was destined for a life of poverty needed all the help she could get. It started to rain, and as we were walking along the Seine back to her apartment I saw a hotel with a tiny sign in the window. By some miracle they had one room left, for about thirty-five dollars a night. We were told that it did not have a toilet, I'd have to share one on the floor below, and if I wanted to take a shower it would cost me about three dollars. The shower was in a stone cubicle in the basement. The clerk was a young man who, when he realized I was American, began speaking to me in English. This was a small relief to me, knowing I'd soon be on my own. I agreed without even seeing the room. I only hoped it had a view. It was not far from Delphine's apartment. She helped me carry my bags back to the hotel.

    Delphine gave me her phone number and told me to call her when I was settled. She was going away to visit her sister in Lyon for a week until school started. Her cousin Jean-Michel would be in her apartment until she returned and he spoke a little English, so if I needed help I was to call him. I reached out to hug her but she leaned only her face toward me. She kissed me on each cheek and wished me bonne chance . She was the one who would need the luck. The very next day a bomb was found on a train headed toward Lyon. It was defused and no one was hurt, but it was only the first sign of more danger to come.

    Suddenly it was night, and I was far from home and completely alone. The little room at the top of the stairs was not decorated with a chandelier, gold-leafed antiques, and a canopy bed covered in delicate lace as I'd imagined, but I was thankful to have a place indoors to sleep. On the floor at the foot of the bed were my green duffel bag and a black canvas backpack, which contained everything I owned. A tiny book of Bible verses the size of a matchbook, a 1968 Frommer's Guide to Paris I'd stolen from the public library. I knew all the major attractions by heart. I used the guide as a dream journal, writing between the lines. Between the pages I filed found poems and movie stubs and photographs. There was the gold pen from Dr. Bernard, three sharp number two pencils, a red Swiss army knife, seven pairs of white cotton panties, two pairs of white socks and one pair of black tights, a navy blue sweater and a pair of black jeans, a fat, palm-sized French-English dictionary, and a new address book with three addresses written in it. On the chair next to the sink, a pair of black stretch pants, a pair of gold hoop earrings, a watch with a thick brown leather band, a green trench coat from a military surplus store, and underneath the chair, a pair of black leather sneakers.

    " Je m'appelle Eden. Je suis une ... writer." The new me tried to impress the scratched mirror. I couldn't remember the French word for writer. Ecrivain. I said other things in French and practiced forgetting my old life.

    My mother told me that she found me lying there, like a lost book or a forgotten hat. Found me crying, hungry, wet, and cold, wrapped in newspaper at the bottom of a brown paper bag in the bathroom of a Greyhound bus station. My father confirmed her story.

    "Who am I?"

    "Mama's little girl."

    "Who am I?"

    "Daddy's African princess."

    "How do you know for sure?"

    I discover that nothing is ever certain. A name, a birthday, an entire life can be invented, and that being so, can be changed. I intended to change all the ordinary things about myself. When I began to write I kept secret diaries, writing between the lines of books my father found in the trash at work. Books on law and economics, typewriter manuals. I wrote about the life I lived in the night place, where I traveled as far as the stars. Before I could speak my father read to me from his found books, sounding out each word as if it were an island, as if either of us understood. Having learned to read so late in life he valued books as treasures of knowledge waiting to be unlocked.

    When I was four years old my parents told me that I was an orphan. My parents were orphans too. They found each other in church one Sunday. Hermine was a big-boned, sturdy, pecan-colored woman, with green eyes and gray hair she kept braided and wrapped around her head. She taught Prior Walker how to read the Bible, and in return he worshiped her. He was small for a man, with thick, callused hands, and balding by the time he was twenty-three. She was a seamstress in a blue-jean factory, and he was the custodian at a bank. They were old, like grandparents. Kind and patient, hardworking Christians. They were alone in the world until they found me. Their family, and therefore mine, was the church. We were happy together. They called me Eden. I made dresses for my dolls, but I was more interested in reading books and writing poems than in sewing. One summer Hermine and I pieced together a quilt made from scraps of clothes Prior and Hermine had worn out or I had outgrown. She called it the family circle quilt. The center image was three interlocking circles. She cried when it was done and sewed a lock of hair from each of us into three corners of the quilt, and in the fourth corner she sewed a secret. She folded the quilt into quarters and packed it into the cedar chest at the foot of her bed. In winter when it was time for me to go to sleep, she pulled the covers up around my chin.

    "When you have a family you can put your baby to sleep under your family circle."

    "My baby will have pretty dreams," I said stroking the lines of thread so lovingly handstitched.

    "As long as Singer makes sewing machines, we'll get by," Hermine always said. The old machine she had must have been one of the first Singers, made in the late 1800s. She had a new electric model my father had bought her for her birthday, but for the quilt we used the one her mother left her before she died. Hermine told the same story about how her life began over and over again. At the age of two she had been left on the doorstep of a colored orphanage along with a note and the old Singer sewing machine in its case next to where she lay asleep. This was all she knew, but her life was full of stories she made up as she went along.

    The only other family we had was Aunt Victorine, my mother's best friend and mine. On the first Saturday morning of each month she used to take me for blessings to the Church of Modern Miracles, where we both pretended she was my mother. When we were together she called me Daughter and I called her Mother, and that was only one of our secrets. Aunt Vic had never married and was childless, and in her way adopted me so that I had two mothers. She had something to do with my wanting to go to Paris. From the time she showed me on a map she drew with a broken pencil on her kitchen wall and told me that black people were free in Paris. Free to live where you wanted, work where you were qualified, and love whom you pleased. At least that was the rumor she had heard. One of her friends in Chicago, where she had grown up, had a sister, an opera singer who went to Paris and married a white man. The opera singer became famous in Europe. According to Aunt Vic the white folks in America didn't want us to know about that kind of living, where a colored person could socialize and marry whom they wanted whether they were white or black, Chinese or Hindu. If she could have chosen, Aunt Vic surely would not have chosen to be a maid for most of her life. She worked two days a week for a rich white doctor in Green Island Hills. That was freedom to her, to choose the life you wanted to live.

    "And who would not choose to live well?" Aunt Vic said.

    Aunt Vic's stories about Paris had sounded like fantasies. She talked about it as if it were a made-up place. If Paris was a real place, I wanted to go.

    "Every day you ought to learn something new, Daughter," Aunt Vic said. I tried to learn new things, and I wrote them down like recipes between the lines of my found books.

    I would go to stay with Aunt Vic, who returned me home Sunday morning ready for Sunday school with Hermine and Prior. I slept through most of Sunday morning sermons at the First African Baptist Missionary Church, where the service was orderly, the hymns hushed, and the service short, and nobody cried too loud or shouted that the Holy Ghost had them by the collar. There was no dancing in the aisles. At the Church of Modern Miracles there was a three-piece band--drums, electric organ, and electric guitar--and several ladies in the front row who shook tambourines and their ample hips and tremulous breasts all through the service. People shouted, praised God so their prayers could be heard above the sins of the city, were possessed by the Holy Spirit, who took over their bodies, shaking them with emotion and filling their eyes with tears and their throats with hal-

Copyright © 2000 Shay Youngblood. All rights reserved.

Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2000-01-10:
Set in 1986, Youngblood's second novel (after Soul Kiss) is a bold if sometimes self-indulgent memoir-style account of an aspiring writer who moves to Paris. Eden is an orphan, adopted and raised by loving parents (themselves orphans), who has been inspired by her independent-minded Aunt Victorine's stories about the freedom that blacks like Josephine Baker and Langston Hughes enjoyed in Paris. Shortly after college graduation, Eden arrives in the French capital, striving to maintain her dignity while working at undignified jobs to pay the rent. Posing nude as an artist's model, and toiling as an au pair and poet's helper cum nurse, she discovers that the foibles of her employers make even the simplest tasks complicated. She feels most free when she is a thief, stealing coins from fountains and graduating to minor theft after hooking up with a nurturing West Indian woman, Lucienne. Luce introduces Eden to many of the hidden pleasures of the city, and when she tells Eden that she's about to move on, Eden realizes that she loves her. Meanwhile, the difficulties of day-to-day life make it nearly impossible for the would-be writer to work on a novel. For inspiration, she navigates the underbelly of Paris, trying to find her literary muse, James Baldwin (rumored to be staying in the city). Many people she meets--including Ving, an androgynous American jazz musician, with whom she has an ambiguous, sexually charged relationship--have anecdotal information about Baldwin, but an introduction to the man proves to be as hard to come by as a warm, clean, cheap apartment. Loose in structure and punctuated with lists of tongue-in-cheek advice for young expatriates, the novel does gradually build momentum, though Youngblood's heavy-handed cultural references weigh it down. Nevertheless, the author tackles well-worn themes with refreshing directness and infuses the novel with unabashed, sometimes unsettling sexuality. 8-city author tour. (Feb.) FYI: Youngblood is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including the Pushcart, several NAACP Theater Awards, the Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award and the Astraea Writers' Award. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Library Journal on 2000-01-01:
In the shadow of terrorist bombs and increasing nationalism, Eden Daniels, a young African American writer, emigrates to Paris in the mid-1980s in search of the freedom experienced by her heroes, Langston Hughes and James Baldwin. As she struggles to keep body and soul together through odd jobs and the generosity of new friends, she embarks on her own journey of liberation and self-discovery. Arrogant, na‹ve, sassy, and tender, Eden is a character who captures the reader's heart even when she is exasperating. Eden's Paris is far removed from the usual tourist haunts; it is a city where fear and racism exist amidst art and poetry, and people must work hard for every piece of beauty. Youngblood's keen sense of language, humor, and characterization make her second novel--her first was Soul Kiss--an absorbing and subtle portrait of a woman finding her own way. Recommended for all public libraries.--Ellen Flexman, Brown Branch, Indianapolis-Marion Cty. P.L. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
This item was reviewed in:
Library Journal, November 1999
Kirkus Reviews, December 1999
Booklist, January 2000
Library Journal, January 2000
Los Angeles Times, January 2000
New York Times Book Review, January 2000
Publishers Weekly, January 2000
Washington Post, February 2000
New York Times Book Review, February 2001
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Unpaid Annotation
Shay Youngblood's debut novel, Soul Kiss, received accolades from reviewers and writers alike. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution hailed it as "exquisite" while Tina McElroy Ansa called it "extraordinary . . . lyrical, intimate, funny, unsettling, enthralling." Now, in her second novel, Youngblood explores the endeavor of a creative coming-of-age, and infuses her story with the same mesmerizing, lush language and impressionistic style of her first remarkable work.Black Girl in Paris wends its way around the mythology of Paris as a legendary hothouse for African-American artists. Like James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Josephine Baker, and Billie Holiday, Youngblood's heroine leaves the American South nurturing a dream of finding artistic emancipation in the City of Light. She experiments freely, inhabiting different incarnations--artist's model, poet's helper, au pair, teacher, thief, and lover--to keep body and soul together, to heal the wounds of her broken family and broken heart, to discover her sexual self, and to wrestle her dreams of becoming a writer into reality.Youngblood's natural lyricism, as effortless as an inspired improvisation, and her respect for the tradition she depicts create a natural tension between old and new, reverence and innovation, and mark this novel as a worthy successor to her much-praised debut.
Unpaid Annotation
Shay Youngblood's debut novel, Soul Kiss, received accolades from reviewers and writers alike. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution hailed it as "exquisite" while Tina McElroy Ansa called it "extraordinary . . . lyrical, intimate, funny, unsettling, enthralling." Now, in her second novel, Youngblood explores the endeavor of a creative coming-of-age, and infuses her story with the same mesmerizing, lush language and impressionistic style of her first remarkable work.Black Girl in Paris wends its way around the mythology of Paris as a legendary hothouse for African-American artists. Like James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Josephine Baker, and Billie Holiday, Youngblood's heroine leaves the American South nurturing a dream of finding artistic emancipation in the City of Light. She experiments freely, inhabiting different incarnations -- artist's model, poet's helper, au pair, teacher, thief, and lover -- to keep body and soul together, to heal the wounds of her broken family and broken heart, to discover her sexual self, and to wrestle her dreams of becoming a writer into reality.Youngblood's natural lyricism, as effortless as an inspired improvisation, and her respect for the tradition she depicts create a natural tension between old and new, reverence and innovation, and mark this novel as a worthy successor to her much-praised debut.
Table of Contents
Museum guidep. 1
Traveling companionp. 39
Artist's model I: parisp. 59
Au pairp. 87
Poet's helperp. 121
Loverp. 141
English teacherp. 167
Thiefp. 187
Artist's model II: vencep. 219
Witnessp. 235
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