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The Blacker the Berry (1929), Wallace Thurman’s debut novel, broke new ground as an exploration of issues of “colorism,” intra-racial prejudice, and internalized racism in African American life. Its protagonist, the young Emma Lou Morgan, is simply “too dark” for a world in which every kind of advancement seems to require a light complexion. Seeking acceptance and opportun The Blacker the Berry (1929), Wallace Thurman’s debut novel, broke new ground as an exploration of issues of “colorism,” intra-racial prejudice, and internalized racism in African American life. Its protagonist, the young Emma Lou Morgan, is simply “too dark” for a world in which every kind of advancement seems to require a light complexion. Seeking acceptance and opportunity, she moves––much like the dark-skinned young Thurman had, four years before the novel’s publication––from Idaho to California to New York. Harlem, the “city of surprises,” is in many ways the novel’s true subject, its low-down, licentious streets, glittering cabarets, and variegated cast of characters offering a rich backdrop for Emma Lou’s ambivalent, picaresque progress.


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The Blacker the Berry (1929), Wallace Thurman’s debut novel, broke new ground as an exploration of issues of “colorism,” intra-racial prejudice, and internalized racism in African American life. Its protagonist, the young Emma Lou Morgan, is simply “too dark” for a world in which every kind of advancement seems to require a light complexion. Seeking acceptance and opportun The Blacker the Berry (1929), Wallace Thurman’s debut novel, broke new ground as an exploration of issues of “colorism,” intra-racial prejudice, and internalized racism in African American life. Its protagonist, the young Emma Lou Morgan, is simply “too dark” for a world in which every kind of advancement seems to require a light complexion. Seeking acceptance and opportunity, she moves––much like the dark-skinned young Thurman had, four years before the novel’s publication––from Idaho to California to New York. Harlem, the “city of surprises,” is in many ways the novel’s true subject, its low-down, licentious streets, glittering cabarets, and variegated cast of characters offering a rich backdrop for Emma Lou’s ambivalent, picaresque progress.

30 review for The Blacker the Berry: A Novel of Negro Life: A Library of America eBook Classic

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ina Cawl

    I always wondered why Western authors who happened to visit my country from Richard Burton to Karen Blixen always claimed that Somali were far more superior to other African although they didn’t give reason for that superiority. And after reading this book it made me more color conscious than ever, did those authors made their assertion because Somali had less thick lip than other Africans? Or they made their assertion because Somali have smoother hair than the African people? Or maybe Somali ski I always wondered why Western authors who happened to visit my country from Richard Burton to Karen Blixen always claimed that Somali were far more superior to other African although they didn’t give reason for that superiority. And after reading this book it made me more color conscious than ever, did those authors made their assertion because Somali had less thick lip than other Africans? Or they made their assertion because Somali have smoother hair than the African people? Or maybe Somali skin color are lighter due to inter marriage with Arabs and Europeans than other hinterland Africans and for this they can claim to be special than Africans. Who does light skin, brown eyes, more pointed nose and more smooth hair made you believe to be superior to people who happened to be more colored and have been blessed with more darker skin Reading this novel made me get a glimpse of what it means to black in lighter skin society, from the Bantu who live in southern part of my country and who still face prejudice and discrimination because he is more black than the usual Somali to Darfur where Arabized African attack other native Africans But this book doesn’t talk about the supposed superiority of Arabized Africans or mixed race individuals but the focus of the novel is how lighter skin people treat their darker skin people within the same race. Here comes Wallace Thurman novel which was published in 1929 which tells the story of Emma Lou who is African American girl who faced systematic racism from her race just because she were more black than her what her family wanted her to be What struck me in the novel was from the start you are told what fate wait our narrator “More acutely than ever before Emma Lou began to feel that her luscious black complexion was somewhat of a liability, and that her marked color variation from the other people in her environment was a decided curse. “ Her first encounter with racism would come with from within her family who treated as curse because she were more darker than her family was and the family motto was “Whiter and whiter every generation,” she deviated from their goal and as a result was treated badly just for being more blacker than family . Getting tired of her mother and grandmother racism she tries to run away from home to university where she beliefs that intra racial racism is something from provincial and it wouldn’t happen in big cities let alone in University but after being shunned from every club meeting her collage had she would run out to Harlem where she develop hypersensitivity and become more aware of her status and develops inferiority superiority complex and starts to treat men with the same racism she used to hate and fight against. And eventually tired of self-hate and self-pitying she resolves to change but also accept who she is “We are all living in a totally white world, where all standards are the standards of the white man, and where almost invariably what the white man does is right, and what the black man does is wrong, unless it is precedented by something a white man has done.” “ What she needed to do now was to accept her black skin as being real and unchangeable, to realize that certain things were, had been, and would be, and with this in mind begin life anew, always fighting, not so much for acceptance by other people, but for acceptance of herself by herself .”

  2. 4 out of 5

    Meike

    Kendrick Lamar made me read it! His song "The Blacker the Berry" was inspired by this classic Harlem Renaissance novel, and when you know Lamar's lyrics and read Thurman's text, you realize how these two works of art are reinforcing each other, and the effect is truly amazing. Thurman's book was first published 1929 and is a critique of a topic that has remained controversial until this day: Colorism, meaning the "prejudicial or preferential treatment of same-race people based solely on their c Kendrick Lamar made me read it! His song "The Blacker the Berry" was inspired by this classic Harlem Renaissance novel, and when you know Lamar's lyrics and read Thurman's text, you realize how these two works of art are reinforcing each other, and the effect is truly amazing. Thurman's book was first published 1929 and is a critique of a topic that has remained controversial until this day: Colorism, meaning the "prejudicial or preferential treatment of same-race people based solely on their color" (Alice Walker). The protagonist Emma Lou has very dark skin, a physical trait that is perceived as undesirable by her lighter family members and many other people she encounters. The novel talks about her experiences growing up in Idaho, studying in California and later working in Harlem, how people treat her and what it does to her psyche. Emma Lou wants to belong, but due to the society she is living in, she has a hard time finding herself and her place in the world. Although I am pretty sure the expression didn't exist back then, Thurman takes an intersectional view and also shows how the factors of gender, class, and wealth play into the design of communities and affect Emma Lou's situation. The story seems to be highly influenced by the life of Wallace Thurman himself, who was not only dark-skinned like Emma Lou, but also struggled for acceptance as a homosexual man. I was surprised that the excellent foreword of the new edition, written by Stanford Professor Allyson Hobbs, also mentions Kendrick Lamar's song. She writes: "Thurman's novel reveals the interracial conflict that results from living in a racist America; almost ninety years later, Lamar's focus is the racist system itself", and dissects some of his lyrics - great stuff. So thanks, Mr. Lamar, for pointing this book out to me, I will soon go on to read Roots: The Saga of an American Family while listening to "King Kunta"!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Donald

    Great book and just as relevant today as it was all those years ago. The book hits the nail on the head on color coding and prejudice in our community, particularly on how self loathing plays itself out - how we turn on each other both light skinned and dark skinned, and how the need to white-up is presented in ways we may not be conscious of Although practiced in our black community here in USA, other books suggest that this is not confined to our community here - see the other Book of the Month Great book and just as relevant today as it was all those years ago. The book hits the nail on the head on color coding and prejudice in our community, particularly on how self loathing plays itself out - how we turn on each other both light skinned and dark skinned, and how the need to white-up is presented in ways we may not be conscious of Although practiced in our black community here in USA, other books suggest that this is not confined to our community here - see the other Book of the Month The Sabi that shows how this happens in Africa too. To some extent I appreciate the frank writing that these books shine on matters that we actually have control over. They deal in uncomfortable truths about us that many of us would not rather talk about Great book

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lulu

    Emma Lou hates herself because of her dark skin tone. She soon discovers that the discrimination she receives is the same discrimination she uses towards others. This is her journey as she tries to find acceptance in her community and within herself. This book was published in 1929 and almost 100 years later this story still resonates so loudly. Color Consciousness is alive and thriving in the black community. This is a classic gem from the Harlem Renaissance. 

  5. 4 out of 5

    Quan

    Ehhhhh...It's one of those books that is important for its historical impact. And you know everyone wants to get behind it for its positive message, which, don't get me wrong, is a good message. Buuuuuut... The good thing about the writing is that it makes for a quick, easy read. But the quality of the writing is pretty weak. It's like a corny "message" song that thinks simply having a message is excuse enough to not be very artful about delivering that message. The books tells more than it shows Ehhhhh...It's one of those books that is important for its historical impact. And you know everyone wants to get behind it for its positive message, which, don't get me wrong, is a good message. Buuuuuut... The good thing about the writing is that it makes for a quick, easy read. But the quality of the writing is pretty weak. It's like a corny "message" song that thinks simply having a message is excuse enough to not be very artful about delivering that message. The books tells more than it shows, especially with its use of ironic/sarcastic tone which just comes off as kinda douche-y. The tone makes it hard to care about any of the characters. The main character, Emma Lou, shows no growth until like 10 pages before the end of the novel. And I'd also add that last section of the novel really tried to pour on the cheese and it sucked. The saving grace was just the info and historical context it revealed about black culture and how cultural attitudes had evolved from survival tactics employed in the slavery era. Interesting stuff.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Mentioned on this super interesting list. (How many have you read? I'm at 38.) Mentioned on this super interesting list. (How many have you read? I'm at 38.)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Londa

    A yellow gal rides in a limousine A brown-skin rides in a Ford, A black girl rides an old jackass, But she gets there, yes, my Lord. America 1920's and Emma Lou Morgan is 'color-conscious' She is a dark complexioned yong black woman, who has never loved or even appreciated the rich hue of her skin. She has been verbally abused, discriminated against, and shunned because of it. She can't seem to find her place in the world and it all seems to start with the color of her skin. It would be easy to as A yellow gal rides in a limousine A brown-skin rides in a Ford, A black girl rides an old jackass, But she gets there, yes, my Lord. America 1920's and Emma Lou Morgan is 'color-conscious' She is a dark complexioned yong black woman, who has never loved or even appreciated the rich hue of her skin. She has been verbally abused, discriminated against, and shunned because of it. She can't seem to find her place in the world and it all seems to start with the color of her skin. It would be easy to assume that all of her suffering must have been caused by whites, but that assumption would be incorrect. Thurman's novel focuses on colorism within the Black race. This book was met with criticism when it was first written. This is not a topic that is comfortable to discuss, then or now. However, the issues it shines light on, are still sadly prevalent 85 years later. Emma Lou was not an easy character to like. Her mind has been so poisoned by her family and her circumstances, that she ends up practicing the same prejudices that have been played out upon her. She comes across as snobbish and rude. The way the novel is written, the reader will spend a lot of time listening to her thoughts and emotional ponderings. Her flaws, although irritating, serve to make Emma Lou very 'real'. I may not have 'liked' Emma Lou, but I certainly believed in her as a character. The poem I quoted above was performed by a fair skinned black chorus girl performing in a musical review that Emma Lou attended. The chorus girl was performing in 'black-face' Reading this novel, I asked myself several times "Are the dark girls still riding on the back of that jackass?" "How far have we come?" Documentaries like Dark Girls are testament to the fact that the answer is "Not far enough." I recommend this novel to anyone who is interested in colorism. It may have been written over 85 years ago, but the issues are still as relevant and important as they were then.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Pam

    Wallace Thurman was a very brave person to shed light on a little known "dirty little secret" within the African American race.A secret which still exist today even though his book was first published in 1929.To say the less,it's a "doozy".Focusing on Emma Lou's "Crime & Punishment".The Crime of being born to a family of mulattoes who wanted to keep the blue veins DNA for generations to come.She was considered a "blue black"within the family.Her Mother,Grandmother and most all her relatives said Wallace Thurman was a very brave person to shed light on a little known "dirty little secret" within the African American race.A secret which still exist today even though his book was first published in 1929.To say the less,it's a "doozy".Focusing on Emma Lou's "Crime & Punishment".The Crime of being born to a family of mulattoes who wanted to keep the blue veins DNA for generations to come.She was considered a "blue black"within the family.Her Mother,Grandmother and most all her relatives said her crime was being too black.Her Punishment was to go through life with the idea that she would never amount to anything as a result of her dark skin.Emma Lou in fact was her worst enemy. Taken from the folk-saying "the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice," its title was ironic, for the novel was an attack on prejudice within the race.When she attends school at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles she again is scorned, so she travels to Harlem, where she believes that she won't be snubbed because of her dark coloring.She uses hair straighteners and skin bleachers, and takes on the appearance and attitudes of the fairer-skinned people who degrade her.Ironically,she in turn snubs darker men, whom she thinks inferior and takes up with a man who is light-skinned but cruel. A very historical description of that time during "The Harlem Renaissance" is painted by Thurman.In fact,his plight was exactly like Emma Lou's.Some say it was autobiographical.Indeed,I can understand why many people of color criticized this work..it was a secret only known within the race as it is STILL known today. Moving,some slow spots,overall a quick read period piece.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Seward Park Branch Library, NYPL

    I've taken ill, so my reviewing faculties are a bit dulled... Here goes nothing... This is the last book in the first volume of the 'Library of America's Harlem Renaissance Novels of the 1920's'. All of the stories contained have some sort of take on black-on-black racism, though none makes this issue its central theme as Thurman does in 'The Blacker The Berry'. Our protagonist, Emma Lou, comes from a family/social circle who is progressively trying to breed whiter and whiter offspring—Emma Lou i I've taken ill, so my reviewing faculties are a bit dulled... Here goes nothing... This is the last book in the first volume of the 'Library of America's Harlem Renaissance Novels of the 1920's'. All of the stories contained have some sort of take on black-on-black racism, though none makes this issue its central theme as Thurman does in 'The Blacker The Berry'. Our protagonist, Emma Lou, comes from a family/social circle who is progressively trying to breed whiter and whiter offspring—Emma Lou is therefore, in a round about way, seen merely as a problem child, an extension of a 'mistake', as her mother's tryst with a dark black man was only looked back upon as a mistake. This in turn informs the way she looks upon herself—like her oppressors she prefers the company of men with lighter skin, and detests crudity of behavior, which she ironically and erroneously associates with darker skin. In a sense similar to Helga Crane in Larsen's 'Quicksand', we want to shake Emma Lou, to force some reason into her. Though Emma Lou is surely an improvement on the surly negative two dimensional character of Helga Crane. Emma Lou's story is certainly less outlandish, and on that level alone I enjoyed 'TBTB' far more than 'Quicksand'. She's a woman with a desire for intelligent company—though she may be her own worst enemy sometimes, I don't believe she ever asks for much! Emma Lou is a woman who is intimate with her simple wants, but is denied time after time despite good intentions. Helga was more of a wanderer, and I tend to have little sympathy with that type of character... Later in his short career, Thurman writes a satire on the figures of the Harlem Renaissance, 'Infants of the Spring'. Though I haven't yet read it, I'm guessing that the reader gets a glimpse into this in the chapter 'Rent Party', where the reader delights in Emma Lou's offended conservatism. It is certainly the most vibrant chapter. I for one was hoping for a little more of what I found in 'Rent Party'... On the subject of satire, this is a very, very sad novel. Yet there's definitely a dry sense of humor to it. Negotiating between the two can be great fun. Still, besides 'Rent Party' and the incredibly dark final chapter, 'Pyrrhic Victory', the writing is very point-A-to-point-B. Thurman's brilliant moments, however, are enough to make me interested in the rest of his regrettably short oeuvre. —AF

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Wallace Thurman is such a striking writer--his style, particularly in this novel, is vivid, near-hypnotic, and this book is a mixture of racial/social critique, sordid melodrama, and a US travel narrative following protagonist Emma Lou's trials in early adulthood. The Blacker the Berry analyzes American colorism, particularly within the African American community, especially inside intellectual circles and/or in Harlem of the early 20th century. Emma Lou is admittedly an infuriating character ( Wallace Thurman is such a striking writer--his style, particularly in this novel, is vivid, near-hypnotic, and this book is a mixture of racial/social critique, sordid melodrama, and a US travel narrative following protagonist Emma Lou's trials in early adulthood. The Blacker the Berry analyzes American colorism, particularly within the African American community, especially inside intellectual circles and/or in Harlem of the early 20th century. Emma Lou is admittedly an infuriating character (as her internalized self-hatred and desire for those who would "naturally" shun her leads her to make the same mistakes in different cities), but I found her to be overwhelmingly sympathetic and engaging. Helga Crane of Nella Larsen's Quicksand is, in my estimation, an analogous character in terms of a polarizing heroine. The book is worth reading for Part 4 alone ("Rent Party") for Thurman's (clear) inclusion and spoofing of infamous and influential Harlem residents/luminaries like Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Bruce Nugent.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    I'm only on page 50 of this novel and it's already struck a nerve with me. As a black gay man I can totally relate to the alienation Emma Lou experiences first hand from her own community. She because of her exceptionally dark skin (this internal racism still exist today within the black community) and myself because of my openness with my sexuality (a homosexual black man is considered the scourge of the black community). For a novel written in 1929 it is amazingly relevant in today's society as I'm only on page 50 of this novel and it's already struck a nerve with me. As a black gay man I can totally relate to the alienation Emma Lou experiences first hand from her own community. She because of her exceptionally dark skin (this internal racism still exist today within the black community) and myself because of my openness with my sexuality (a homosexual black man is considered the scourge of the black community). For a novel written in 1929 it is amazingly relevant in today's society as well. A must read for any black person who is struggling to find their place in the black community.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

    This book is, by far, one of my favorite reads. It really digs deep into the social, moral, and mental issues plaguing the late 19th/early 20th century Negro-American. For me, it displays for the reader an uninhibited view of the duplicity of the Negro state of mind, how it affected the Negro family, and how it weakened the Negro community. It gives a deeper, more poignant interpretation of the color divide among one race of people and a foreboding insight into the issues faced by the 21st centu This book is, by far, one of my favorite reads. It really digs deep into the social, moral, and mental issues plaguing the late 19th/early 20th century Negro-American. For me, it displays for the reader an uninhibited view of the duplicity of the Negro state of mind, how it affected the Negro family, and how it weakened the Negro community. It gives a deeper, more poignant interpretation of the color divide among one race of people and a foreboding insight into the issues faced by the 21st century African-American.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

    The protagonist was not a likable character. She hated how her family discriminated against dark skinned Blacks, yet she did the exact same thing. She was simple and ignorant and thoroughly pissed me off, yet as she grew and and faced her existence without excuse (they don't like me because of my dark skin versus they don't like me because I'm obnoxious) she became more endurable and maybe, just maybe, someone I would care no know with further exposure. The protagonist was not a likable character. She hated how her family discriminated against dark skinned Blacks, yet she did the exact same thing. She was simple and ignorant and thoroughly pissed me off, yet as she grew and and faced her existence without excuse (they don't like me because of my dark skin versus they don't like me because I'm obnoxious) she became more endurable and maybe, just maybe, someone I would care no know with further exposure.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Billy

    4.5 stars Complicated, emotional, moving This is an amazing classic Edit: I really enjoyed this book because of the visible intersections of being a woman, being a Black woman, and being dark-skinned. It captures the racist ideology within the Black community - both at the level of the elite and the lower class, the internalised prejudice of Emma Lou in trying to prove herself as "worthy" to be in company of light-skinned Black people through her intellect, and status as a college graduate, trying 4.5 stars Complicated, emotional, moving This is an amazing classic Edit: I really enjoyed this book because of the visible intersections of being a woman, being a Black woman, and being dark-skinned. It captures the racist ideology within the Black community - both at the level of the elite and the lower class, the internalised prejudice of Emma Lou in trying to prove herself as "worthy" to be in company of light-skinned Black people through her intellect, and status as a college graduate, trying to find the "right type of work to introduce her to the right kinds of people", but at the same time feeling like an outcast and as though every conversation and comment on dark skin was aimed to ridicule her. It consumed her entire adolescent and young adult life. Now, the ending was sad, and how she had to leave her situation, and the realisations she came to about her skin colour was very pensive and I really empathised with Emma Lou, except from the opposite perspective in my life. I can't wait to read more of Thurman's work!

  15. 5 out of 5

    reneeNaDaBomb

    Emma Lou has it hard in a family of mixed kin. Her mama, mamma's mama too (white slave master + slave) but her daddy is pure sweet black berry juice. The story is all about self acceptance and Emma Lou has hella trails and tribulations ahead in her life. Enjoy. Emma Lou has it hard in a family of mixed kin. Her mama, mamma's mama too (white slave master + slave) but her daddy is pure sweet black berry juice. The story is all about self acceptance and Emma Lou has hella trails and tribulations ahead in her life. Enjoy.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Peta

    A complicated character and a storyline that not only reflect on the 1920s, but it can easily relate to now. Video review here ->https://youtu.be/jHvWfsBiBSY A complicated character and a storyline that not only reflect on the 1920s, but it can easily relate to now. Video review here ->https://youtu.be/jHvWfsBiBSY

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bridget

    WARNING: I DO CURSE IN THIS AND GO ON A BIT OF A RANT...YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! 4.5/5 stars The only reason this book got a 4.5/5 stars was because there were some moments I got bored...but other than that, it was a wonderful book that had me ticked off so many times throughout this book. Why you may ask? Well, because even during the 1920's when this book took place, the hatred for yourself because of your skin tone, especially if you were a dark skin woman or man, was just frustrating...And to see t WARNING: I DO CURSE IN THIS AND GO ON A BIT OF A RANT...YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! 4.5/5 stars The only reason this book got a 4.5/5 stars was because there were some moments I got bored...but other than that, it was a wonderful book that had me ticked off so many times throughout this book. Why you may ask? Well, because even during the 1920's when this book took place, the hatred for yourself because of your skin tone, especially if you were a dark skin woman or man, was just frustrating...And to see that same mess happening in 2015. The fact that people still harp on that light skin dark skin bull shit grates on me. I mean, come on...When the hell are we going to get the hell over it?!?! I mean really? Yes, we as people have our preferences, that's fine, but to down someone because they're "too dark" and praise for someone who is "high yella" or brown skin?!?! Or even down someone who is light/high yella just for the sake of the old mentality of times that date back to slavery. When will this damn mentality leave? When will parents stop teaching their kids that its a bad thing to be dark? Or that being High Yella is a good thing? Or that high yella women are stuck up and all about themselves? Not all of us, regardless of skin tone are the same! I, as a "high yella" woman was and still can be very self conscious of my skin tone because people always made a big deal out of it..and I never saw what the damn big deal was...and I still don't. But I don't want you making me feel less than either because Im light and you are attracted to darker tone women. Just like I do my best to not make anyone else feel less than because I dont see the big damn deal and "high yella" men and women. Yes, I have my preferences when it comes to dating men, but my preferences are so far stretched that it can't really be a big deal. In a nut shell, as wonderful as this book is, it helped to fuel how pissed off I get with the stupid skin tone bull shit! Let that shit go! I see beauty in all shades...And I personally do find darker skin tones beautiful...Forget what society teaches you and learn to accept and love you for who the hell you are...From the lightest to the darkest! We need to figure out how to let that mess go and move the hell forward! Stop with the Dumb Shit! Now, what I can say is, I am glad to see Emma Lou's growth by the end of this book and willing to start working on loving who she is and accepting her skin tone. And finally just letting go and just start allowing things to take its course in life....I am proud she got her back bone when it came to handling some things by the end of the book... #Done

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kiran Bhat

    The Blacker The Berry... is a Harlem Renaissance novel which gets into the story of Emma Lou Morgan, a black woman recently admitted to college with deeply dark skin. The book explores how Emma perceives people of her race as well as the way they perceive her. Emma is highly educated, but is simply darker, and so she is seen as less. I could highly relate to this book, due to the way intersections of color and caste, education and upbringing, come into play when Indians interact with each other. The Blacker The Berry... is a Harlem Renaissance novel which gets into the story of Emma Lou Morgan, a black woman recently admitted to college with deeply dark skin. The book explores how Emma perceives people of her race as well as the way they perceive her. Emma is highly educated, but is simply darker, and so she is seen as less. I could highly relate to this book, due to the way intersections of color and caste, education and upbringing, come into play when Indians interact with each other. When Emma bemoans the broken English of the black woman trying to introduce herself to her, or reflects on how she was introduced to skin lightening creams every day of her childhood, I couldn't help feeling it mirrored in 21st century Indian society (or probably any postcolonial society, definitely still in the USA today). I have definitely thought many of the same thoughts as Emma Lou. As intra-racial observation, the book is a gem, but unfortunately, Thurman tried to develop it with a normal plot. Emma tries to date certain men, and interact with her classmates, and I just found these parts of the book so trite. I felt that Thurman was trying to make the book go somewhere for the sake of making it resemble a linear novel, but the novel would have been much more successful simply if it had remained poignant slice of life reflections on colorism. I give it high enough consideration due to the universality and timeliness of Thurman's observations, but as a novel, it needs considerable more structure, and thought.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Leigh J.

    It's pretty tough to get through because the POV is the girl who hates her own skin, but it's an interesting look in shadeism. The intro in my copy (I read it when I was halfway through the book) was very misguided and no actual fact that were correct, sources, or any truths to the origins of shadeism were included. She also excuses colonialism from blame which is entirely incorrect. Thurman's writing style is mostly pleasing, but there are some parts in the book that begged me to abandon it and It's pretty tough to get through because the POV is the girl who hates her own skin, but it's an interesting look in shadeism. The intro in my copy (I read it when I was halfway through the book) was very misguided and no actual fact that were correct, sources, or any truths to the origins of shadeism were included. She also excuses colonialism from blame which is entirely incorrect. Thurman's writing style is mostly pleasing, but there are some parts in the book that begged me to abandon it and pick up something else. The way some events in Emma's life were fleshed out fully with pages describing poetically how she was feeling, and others equally important were given a page maybe and rushed through, confused me at times. (view spoiler)[ The first part of the book explains her and her journey to college and we establish her feelings about it and then about a paragraph is devoted to staying in school 1-2 more years, and moving across the country. Too much time and energy was devoted to trying to poetically explain what was happening in Emma's mind without anything seamless in going how the story seemed to be intended to go. (hide spoiler)] It wasn't hard to read, but I will never read it again.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    This is such a sad story. It was well written and touches on the sensetive subject of racial prejudice within the black community. The main character, Emma, is naive and insecure not solely do to societies views of dark skin, but mainly due to how she was raised and treated by members of her own family, who were of lighter complexion. Seeing an oppertunity to escape thier oppressive views she takes off to first L.A. and then New york. Instead of finding the color-blind mecca she expected she com This is such a sad story. It was well written and touches on the sensetive subject of racial prejudice within the black community. The main character, Emma, is naive and insecure not solely do to societies views of dark skin, but mainly due to how she was raised and treated by members of her own family, who were of lighter complexion. Seeing an oppertunity to escape thier oppressive views she takes off to first L.A. and then New york. Instead of finding the color-blind mecca she expected she comes face to face with a difficult reality that is both enviromental and of her own making. Alothough I enjoyed this book and the journey Emma embarks on to find her place in the world, the ending seemed flat and unfinished. It almost seems that there should be another book that picks up where this one leaves off. All in all a good read. An informative and insightful look into black america of the 1920's.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    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 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.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ang Bennett

    It is a book that is very frustrating to read, because of the main character's [Emma Lou] outlook on everything in her life. It seems that she never takes any responsibility, or ownership of her own life, relying on the views/opinions of those around her. She knows that other blacks discriminate against her, because of her shade, yet, she does the exact thing to her people, just not on the basis of the tone of their "blackness". The Blacker the Berry will always be an important historical fixtur It is a book that is very frustrating to read, because of the main character's [Emma Lou] outlook on everything in her life. It seems that she never takes any responsibility, or ownership of her own life, relying on the views/opinions of those around her. She knows that other blacks discriminate against her, because of her shade, yet, she does the exact thing to her people, just not on the basis of the tone of their "blackness". The Blacker the Berry will always be an important historical fixture, because of Wallace Thurman's boldness in freely writing about the colorism that exists within the African American community.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Donna Patton

    Truly one of the best books I've ever read. The author died much too soon. Highly recommended. Truly one of the best books I've ever read. The author died much too soon. Highly recommended.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Courtney

    As is often the case with books from the Harlem Renaissance, many of the points they held up for criticism still ring too true today nearly 100 years later.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Stacy-Ann

    This was a great book, The characters, storyline, plot was all good. The author did a great job in projecting blackness as well as racism also Skin lighting cream stand out very strong throughout the book. This book also show that this is something still happening in today. If you have not read this book as yet, read it. It make's a good group discussion. This was a great book, The characters, storyline, plot was all good. The author did a great job in projecting blackness as well as racism also Skin lighting cream stand out very strong throughout the book. This book also show that this is something still happening in today. If you have not read this book as yet, read it. It make's a good group discussion.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Polansky

    A dark-skinned woman tries to make her way in a post-war black society of uncompromising color consciousness. Thoughtful and well-written, of surprising subtlety for an overtly political novel. Good stuff.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    Although a highly readable story about intra-racial tensions and what historically fueled and still fuels the desire to be 'high yellow' and the status that provides, I think this fell short using more of a 'tell, don't show' approach with little subtlety and only some self-awareness that color bias exists at both ends of the spectrum (as well as in between) at the very, very end. Although a highly readable story about intra-racial tensions and what historically fueled and still fuels the desire to be 'high yellow' and the status that provides, I think this fell short using more of a 'tell, don't show' approach with little subtlety and only some self-awareness that color bias exists at both ends of the spectrum (as well as in between) at the very, very end.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Gary Lee

    A fantastic lost classic of the Harlem Renaissance -- highly recommended!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    Wow. While it can be a little to on the nail and sluggish sometimes, this novel was a revealing and riveting take in the the early 20th century African American. With some many fascinating characters and subtexts, I was never certain where it would land. A forgotten gem indeed.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kasen

    I read this in one sitting. I can say I have never done that before in my life. an excellent and essential text, easy to digest, yet riddled with complex themes.

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