Growing up in New Orleans in the 1970s, Sandrine is proud to be black, but because she is light-skinned and very smart, the black kids think she is stuck-up, and the white kids won’t speak to her because, to them, she is black. At home, her single-parent mother beats her, makes her scrub the house constantly, and blames her for being a slut when she is sexually abused. For a brief time, Sandrine has one white friend at school, but Lydia also has dark secrets, and she shows Sandrine that the vicious prejudice they encounter is not only about race and class, but also about gender, and that many believe educating a girl is a waste. This debut novel is more a short story with one repeated theme played out in family, Catholic school, and neighborhood. But the obsession never gets boring or messagey, the dialogue is fast and lively, and Sandrine’s first-person narrative delivers immediate, searing drama, showing her pride, passion, and courage as she breaks stereotypes.