By Lori Tharps
(Atria Books, Paperback, 9781439171103, 368pp.)
Publication Date: August 24, 2010
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Zora Anderson is a 30-year-old African American middle class, college educated woman, trained as a chef, looking for a job. As fate would have it, Kate and Craig, a married couple, aspiring professionals with a young child are looking for a nanny.
Zora seems perfect. She’s an enthusiastic caretaker, a competent house keeper, a great cook. And she wants the job, despite the fact that she won’t let her African American parents and brother know anything about this new career move. They expect much more from her than to use all that good education to do what so many Blacks have dreamed of not doing: working for White folks. Working as an au pair in Paris, France no less, was one thing, they could accept that. Being a servant to a couple not much older nor more educated, is yet another. Every adult character involved in this tangled web is hiding something: the husband is hiding his desire to turn a passion for comic books into a business from his wife, the wife is hiding her professional ambitions from her husband, the nanny is hiding her job from her family and maybe her motivations for staying on her job from herself.
Memorable characters, real-life tensions and concerns and the charming—in a hip kind of way—modern-day Park Slope, Fort Greene, Brooklyn setting make for an un-put-down-able read.
Lori L. Tharps is the author of Kinky Gazpacho: Life, Love & Spain, named by Salon.com as one of their top ten books for 2008, and the co-author of Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America. She is an assistant professor of journalism at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, where she makes her home with her husband and family. She doesn’t have a nanny.
“A great read! I can only imagine the discussions this novel will stimulate in book clubs.” —Kathleen Grissom, author of The Kitchen House
“With a perceptive and honest eye, Lori Tharps delivers a compelling story that eases us into the heart of a family. But, just as we settle in, we learn that all is not as it appears. Suspense follows, for we know the solution to the unfolding dilemma cannot come without pain.” —Kathleen Grissom, author of The Kitchen House
“Book clubs: Substitute Me will give you so much to talk, laugh and argue about, you might want to schedule two meetings to discuss it. Days after finishing it, I'm still debating who the villain is. Lori Tharps has written a timely, engaging page-turner that every working mom in America should read!” —Carleen Brice, author of Children of the Waters
“Lori Tharps’s warm and engaging novel about the struggles of juggling marriage, motherhood and a meaningful career focuses on a story we’re each living, but also exposes the secrets we won’t tell. An enjoyable read.” —Heidi Durrow, author of The Girl Who Fell from the Sky
A fresh, fun, view of "the help" from a writer to watch. -- Benilde Little, author of Good Hair