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by Darnella Ford St. Martin's Griffin, January 2003 $12.95, ISBN 0-312-30306-8

Darnella Ford's debut novel, Rising, is the story of Symone, a forthright, somewhat sardonic survivor of the worst kind of trauma--rape and incest. We follow Symone from her humble beginnings in Boston's Dorchester projects to a completely different character living in one of the city's posh suburbs. Indeed, her situation becomes even more horrific once her economic status improves.

Rising opens with Symone living in the projects with her heroin-addicted mother, Delores, a woman whose daughter's devotion is as tragic as it is typical of children of drug-addicted parents. Ford, however, turns their lives into "hood" hyperbole, replete with incredible descriptions that read like a ghetto cliches. Details such as Delores and Symone having to share a toothbrush yet owning a car, or raw sewage coming up through the pipes, or having pet rats named "Honkee Honkee" and "Niggah Niggah," are so absurd that they are downright insulting. Add to that, the absence of credible "street" vernacular or something to balance its ghetto life, and the story becomes painful at times.

"I was an eight-year-old, broke, illiterate, black orphan with blonde hair and blue eyes, daughter of a druggie who had just died of an overdose," writes Ford, only a chapter before Symone is skipped a grade because of her brilliance. How easily characters morph from illiteracy to genius. Cliches abound here. Symone is, of course, a tragic, bisexual mulatto, who faces all of the usual identity crises and ghetto tragedies at every turn.

In part two of Rising, Symone is adopted by a wealthy white family--the Houstons (read Different Strokes). As an adult, she recounts her life growing up with her adopted family--her mother Madeline, two sisters Audrey and Chandler, and father, Ridge--through flashbacks.

Symone's story becomes more fragmented, and given her life in the Houston household that makes sense. Rising becomes a series of disjointed stories and characters; a bad soap opera that piques your curiosity with its outlandish and tragic twists, yet never delivers. Instead, unlike leavened bread that rises, the story remains flat.
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Author:Bronner, Angela
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 2003
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