Suzanne Ruta
March 04, 1994 AT 05:00 AM EST

Coffee Will Make You Black

Current Status
In Season
April Sinclair

We gave it a B+

COFFEE WILL MAKE YOU BLACK April Sinclair (Hyperion, $19.95) ”Madame Walker inventing the straightening comb was the best thing that happened to the Negro next to Emancipation.” ”White people are like actors, they don’t feel things the way we do.” Stevie, the smart, adventurous heroine of Sinclair’s funny, fresh first novel about growing up African-American in 1960s Chicago, picks her way through minefields of advice from her mother’s generation while searching for a place in her own. She outgrows an early obsession with good hair and the right skin color (fudge? Cracker Jack? pecan? paper bag?) to discover politics and self-respect after Martin Luther King is murdered. Sinclair writes like Terry McMillan’s kid sister, in earthy, slangy dialogue peppered with down-home expressions. A girl is as ugly as ”homemade sin.” Winter weather is ”stomp-down cold.” She has a knack for framing heavy questions in quick, easy, upbeat vignettes that make the ’60s sound like the good old days. B+ -Suzanne Ruta

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