Blacker the Berry. . .

by Wallace Thurman

Paperback, 1996


Checked out



Touchstone (1996), Edition: Reissue, 221 pages


One of the most widely read and controversial works of the Harlem Renaissance, The Blacker the Berry...was the first novel to openly explore prejudice within the Black community. This pioneering novel found a way beyond the bondage of Blackness in American life to a new meaning in truth and beauty. Emma Lou Brown's dark complexion is a source of sorrow and humiliation -- not only to herself, but to her lighter-skinned family and friends and to the white community of Boise, Idaho, her home-town. As a young woman, Emma travels to New York's Harlem, hoping to find a safe haven in the Black Mecca of the 1920s. Wallace Thurman re-creates this legendary time and place in rich detail, describing Emma's visits to nightclubs and dance halls and house-rent parties, her sex life and her catastrophic love affairs, her dreams and her disillusions -- and the momentous decision she makes in order to survive. A lost classic of Black American literature, The Blacker the a compelling portrait of the destructive depth of racial bias in this country. A new introduction by Shirlee Taylor Haizlip, author of The Sweeter the Juice, highlights the timelessness of the issues of race and skin color in America.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member CutestLilBookworm
Poor Emma Lou, so naive and self centered....this woman's got issues! Thurman paints a complex portrayal of a dark skinned African American woman who is so caught up in anxieties surrounding the color of her skin that she attributes everything that goes wrong in her life to just that. Granted, her mother planted these seeds of self doubt as she lamented her daughters skin tone and expressed pure resentment of Emma Lou's also dark father, but she really goes to the extreme and blames every negative encounter with others as a consequence of not being fair skinned enough. Is Emma Lou totally at fault for feeling the way she does? Not entirely, because there is definite validity to her thought process because unfortunately dark skinned African American's were/are often mocked and ridiculed not only by whites but by other African American's. Thurman does a great job at allowing the reader to see the world through shifting realities...sometime what Emma Lou imagines to be true is true, but other times, she mistakenly attributes actions towards her due to her color when it's really just due to her naivety and her own prejudices.

Thurman tells the story of Emma Lou's journey for acceptance which leads her from Boise, Idaho to Southern California and then on to a hustling and bustling Harlem in New York City in the 1920's. Not only are you able to see a clear picture of the various characters and the different settings, but Thurman is superb at revealing the inner thoughts and the 'why' behind each characters behavior. This was a really good read!!
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LibraryThing member Rascalstar
This book is classic black America, written in 1929 -- well-written for its time and subject. Emma Lou was educated and had lived in Idaho. Her problem was her skin color, not just black but dark. It mattered then and I suspect it still matters today. The book is still timely because of the unexplainable prejudices people have against each other for preposterous reasons. Emma Lou tried to escape the pettiness of her small town at college and in big cities but her color mattered everywhere. This is also a lesson to parents and others -- how a child perceives herself is shaped a good deal by how the child has been treated at home and by all she comes into contact with.… (more)


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Physical description

221 p.; 5.25 inches


068481580X / 9780684815800
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