Harper, Rachel M. 1972–
Harper, Rachel M. 1972–
PERSONAL: Born 1972; daughter of Michael S. Harper (a poet).
ADDRESSES: Home—Providence, RI. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Touchstone, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.
Brass Ankle Blues (novel), Touchstone (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor to literary journals, including Prairie Schooner and African American Review.
SIDELIGHTS: The title of Rachel M. Harper's debut novel, Brass Ankle Blues, is a reference to the Brass Ankles of South Carolina, a group of people who are of white, black, and Native American heritage. Her protagonist, fifteen-year-old Nellie Kincaid, is facing an identity crisis as the interracial marriage of her parents falls apart. Before moving to California with her father in the fall, she spends her summer at her mother's family cottage in Minnesota. Nellie and her father travel from Virginia with her white cousin, Jess, who is a year older and rebellious. Nellie's father agrees to let them take a bus for the final leg of the journey, but when they miss it, they hitchhike, first separately, then together. Dallas, a nineteen-year-old Sioux who gives Nellie a ride, takes a nearby construction job to be near Nellie. She and their neighbor, Luke, also become close, although Luke, who is white, cannot understand how it feels to be of mixed race, while Dallas can. As the summer progresses, Nellie experiences the dynamics of her mixed-race family, learns the reason behind her parents' separation and impending divorce, and gains a new appreciation of her father, who explains to her what life for him has been like as a black man whose color is judged before his worth. Luan Gaines wrote in an online review for Curled Up with a Good Book, "Nellie's relationships with cousins, attraction to the opposite sex, acceptance of family members, white and black, familiar and unfamiliar, are transformed in this coming-of-age story that launches the young woman into her future."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 15, 2005, Jennifer Mattson, review of Brass Ankle Blues, p. 22.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2005, review of Brass Ankle Blues, p. 1159.
Publishers Weekly, November 7, 2005, review of Brass Ankle Blues, p. 47.
Curled Up with a Good Book, http://www.curledup.com/ (March 1, 2006), Luan Gaines, review of Brass Ankle Blues.