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Rozelle Quinn is so fair-skinned that she can pass for white. Her ten children are mostly light, too. Everyone in her small Georgia town knows that they all have different fathers. She favours her light children, but it is Tangy Mae, the darkest of them all, who is the brightest and the only one desperate to get an education. But her mother has other plans for her. She wants thirteen-year-old Tangy Mae to take over her jobs: spending her days cleaning houses for whites, and nights servicing men, black and white, at the infamous 'Farmhouse'. Rozelle's children are the only thing in her life she has control over, and she is not a woman whose commands can be easily ignored. She is a creature of moods, possessive of all her children, demanding of them complete loyalty and obedience. The Darkest Child shows us a world misshapen by years of oppression in which family is powerful yet offers little kindness or comfort. It shows a world in which attitudes of prejudice have been adopted by its victims. The struggle for those with darker skin, like Tangy Mae, has become not only against outsiders, but against their own kin.
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About the Author

Delores Phillips was born in Georgia. She is a graduate of Cleveland State University and works as a nurse in a facility for abused women and children in Cleveland. This is her first novel.


In this exceptional debut novel, intelligent 14-year-old Tangy Mae chillingly recounts the brutal physical and mental abuse that her mother has inflicted on her and her ten siblings, who are fathered by a host of different men and are yet fatherless. Mama's madness and alcohol abuse are the driving forces behind much of this abuse, and Phillips's portrayal of the homicidal urges that dominate even her adult children will resonate with readers almost as strongly as the murderous moms created by Toni Morrison. As if the constant abuse weren't enough, the Quinn children also must cope with growing up poor and black in a rural, segregated town in Georgia, just prior to major desegregation battles. Tangy Mae, who has the darkest skin of anyone in the Quinn family, suffers the most. Phillips's depiction of white racism and violence add another horrible layer of suffering to the burdens that Tangy Mae and her siblings must bear. They also give this work a depth and dimension not often characteristic of a first novel. Strongly recommended.-Faye A. Chadwell, Univ. of Oregon Libs., Eugene Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

'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.' Washington Post Book World 'Phillips's depiction of white racism and violence...give this work a depth and dimension not often characteristic of a first novel. Strongly recommended.' Library Journal (starred review) 'Using a large cast of powerfully drawn characters, Phillips captures life in a town that serves as a microcosm of a world on the brink of change.' Publishers Weekly

Phillips's searing debut reveals the poverty, injustices and cruelties that one black family suffers-some of this at the hands of its matriarch-in a 1958 backwater Georgia town. Thirteen-year-old Tangy Mae Quinn loves her mother, Rozelle, but knows there's "something wrong" with her-which, as it soon becomes clear, is an extreme understatement. As the novel opens, Rozelle is getting ready to give birth to her 10th child (by a 10th father) and thinking about forcing the obedient Tangy Mae, who longs to stay in school, to take over her housecleaning job. Using a large cast of powerfully drawn characters, Phillips captures life in a town that serves as a microcosm of a world on the brink of change. There's Junior, the perpetual optimist, who wants to teach people to read and write so they can understand the injustices of Jim Crow laws and the Ku Klux Klan; Hambone, a here today/gone tomorrow rabble-rouser whose anger against white men and their laws inflames those around him; and Miss Pearl, the only true friend to the Quinn family. At the dark heart of the story is Rozelle, the beautiful mixed-race head of the Quinn family whose erratic mood swings, heart-wrenching cruelty and deep emotional distress leave an indelible mark on all her children. Through all the violence and hardship breathes the remarkable spirit of Tangy Mae, who is wise beyond her years; forced to do unspeakable things by her mother and discriminated against by the town's whites, she manages to survive and to rescue a younger sister from the same fate. (Jan.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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