Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart

by Joyce Carol Oates

Hardcover, 1990

Call number




Dutton Adult (1990), 405 pages


Iris Courtney, a young white woman living in upstate New York in the decade prior to the civil rights movement, begins a clandestine relationship with Jinx Fairchild, a black man who had defended her in a fatal street fight with a white man.

User reviews

LibraryThing member mahallett
this book is 400 pages. i started it and didn't like it that much and went on holiday. came home, got it back from the library and liked it better and went on holiday again. so on my 3rd go, i liked it much better.
i found "the crime" very bizarre and her fascination with black men/people a little
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peculiar. her parents' marriage was boring. i kept thinking of don johnson as her father. but the story of her university life with her professor's family was very good. the ending especially.
where is her father-in-law? does she actually not know her groom is gay? is he gay? does she actually love her father-in-law?
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LibraryThing member eysman
All of her books. Joyce Carol Oates. She is like an aerialist with words. Way up there in the big top, flying, pushing aside gracefully punctuation and sentence structure trapezes and ropes, with no safety net, and a perfect landing every time. Writes so much and with such insight and courage to do
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the impossible, i prefer to think she does it by alchemy than typing that first letter. its like her characters have a slightly different shade of sky than we are used to.
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LibraryThing member mausergem
The novel is set in the late 1950's and early 60's in Hammond and Seracuse, New York. Gracie Curtney is a white girl coming from a dysfunctional household with a gambler father and an alcoholic mother. She lands herself in a soup when she finds herself being chased by the local loony kid, Red
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Garlock. She seeks help and in turn is helped by the local basketball hero and a black boy, Jinx Fairchild. In the scuffle that ensues, Red is killed and Jinx disposes of the body. This incidence haunts both of them throughout their life. It pulls them together but also pushes them apart partly due to racial considerations and partly due to fear of detection. Both of them go their separate ways in a sort of incomplete, inattentive way.

The story is dull and the characters are not well developed. The author leaves a lot of thing to the reader to interpret as he desires. Some novels with ordinary characters and ordinary lives work like [The Chip chip Gatherers] by [[Shiva Naipaul]] which I had recently read but this does not.
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LibraryThing member raizel
I never felt connected to the characters and didn't get past 100 pages and it's not the kind of book I want to be reading now.
LibraryThing member burritapal
The first book I've read by Oates where the protagonist isn't upper middle class white. In this case, Iris Courtney, a girl from a lower middle class family in Western New York, is the main character. Her mother and father are a good-looking young couple who live life for today, and never worry
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about tomorrow.
Iris is a girl who never fits in, and learns early on to be independent, as, after her mother divorces her father, her mother goes rapidly downhill, and Iris must look after herself and her mother.
This fiction is about how a person can force themselves not to feel, when life is too painful, and mold themselves into a walking-talking human with little feeling left inside.
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National Book Award (Finalist — Fiction — 1990)




0525248609 / 9780525248606
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