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Leaving Atlanta.

by Tayari Jones AOL Time Warners Books, August 2002 $23.95, ISBN 0-446-52830-7

You don't have to be African American to enjoy and be saddened by Tasha, Rodney, and Octavia, three children who struggle under the specter of the 1980's Atlanta child murders. In Leaving Atlanta, the sensitive and powerful first novel of 2000 Hurston/Wright competition winner, Tayari Jones, the unspoken terror generated by violence without a face, is an eerie reminder of the new post-9/11 reality for all American children.

Jones controls the story impressively. She creates a dynamic landscape from the perspective of Tasha's growing awareness of fractured relationships, as seen through her parents and her own school-girl crush gone horribly wrong. The writer draws you as dose to Rodney as his painfully withdrawn personality will allow, while Octavia narrates the terrifying tale.

Jones cleverly integrates three distinct stories into one seamless world, detailing experiences in the lives of the children that force them to change, set against the suspense-filled backdrop of Atlanta's child-murders.

Jones, who knew some of the victims of the real tragedy as a child, reminds us of how unnerved black children remain growing up amid the racism, ignorance, and violence often perpetuated by police, apathetic teachers, and even family.

Leaving Atlanta gently describes, through these children, their frustration and despair, with a measure of humor and love. Jones explores the pride and prejudices within the African-American community: skin color, hair envy, wealth and poverty, without apology or judgement.

This first novel by Jones is a work of great promise.

--VeTalle Fusilier is hard at work on his first novel, The Visible Man.
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Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Fusilier, VeTalle
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 2002
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