The Darkest Child
By Delores Phillips
(Soho Press, Paperback, 9781569473788, 400pp.)
Publication Date: January 2005
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Rozelle Quinn is so fair-skinned that she can pass for white. Her ten children are mostly light, too. They constitute the only world she rules and controls. Her power over them is all she has in an otherwise cruel and uncaring universe.
Rozelle favors her light-skinned kids, but Tangy Mae, 13, her darkest-complected child, is the brightest. She desperately wants to continue with her education. Her mother, however, has other plans. Rozelle wants her daughter to work cleaning houses for whites, like she does, and accompany her to the “Farmhouse,” where Rozelle earns extra money bedding men. Tangy Mae, she’s decided, is of age.
This is the story from an era when life’s possibilities for an African-American were unimaginably different.
Delores Phillips was born in Bartow County, Georgia in 1950, the second of four children. She graduated from Cleveland State University with a bachelor of arts in English and works as a nurse at a state psychiatric hospital. Her work has appeared in Jean’s Journal, Black Times, and The Crisis. She has lived in Cleveland, Ohio since 1964.
Praise for The Darkest Child
“Filled with grand plot events and clearly identifiable villains and victims . . . lush with detail and captivating with its story of racial tension and family violence.”
—The Washington Post Book World
“The Darkest Child is an exceptional debut from a most talented writer. Epic in scope, intimate in tone, it is sure to find a special place in the deepest crevices of your heart.”
“[An] exceptional debut novel . . . [Has] a depth and dimension not often characteristic of a first novel.”
—Library Journal, Starred Review
“Bold memorable characters and enough drama to keep you up all night wondering what can possibly happen next.”
—The Black Book Review
“Evil’s regenerative powers and one girl’s fierce resistance . . . A book that deserves a wide audience.”
—The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Horrific and gripping.”
—Dallas Morning News
“Extraordinary . . . Delores Phillips delivers a narrative with the kind of brutal force that renders the reader breathless . . . A commanding piece of work that will undoubtedly assume a place within a well-established literary tradition, and will place Phillips among a selective group of writers whose abilities as literary artists inspire and encourage conversation and creativity.”
—Noir! African American Book Review
“Phillips writes with a no-nonsense elegance . . . As a vision of African-American life, The Darkest Child is one of the harshest novels to arrive in many years . . . [Phillips] buttresses those harsh episodes with a depth of characterization worthy of Chekhov, pitch-perfect dialogue, and a profound knowledge of the segregated South in the ’50s.”
—The New Leader