By Judy Juanita
(Viking Adult, Hardcover, 9780670026586, 320pp.)
Publication Date: April 18, 2013
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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 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-outsall 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.
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.
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.”
“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.”
“[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.”
“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