I still thought breasts might be more trouble than they were worth. Growing up reminded me a little bit of Hide and Go Seek. When it was your time to grow up, Natrue said, "Here I come, ready or not." And Nature could always find you.
Dialogue that evokes the tough attitudes of wisecracking teenagers on Chicago's South Side galvanizes this debut novel--and balances its sometimes heavy-handed use of well-known history. Set in a secondary school during the late '60s, it juxtaposes narrator Jean ``Stevie'' Stevenson's coming-of-age story with the emergence of the civil rights movement. Its confrontational title is explained by Stevie's mother, who says, ``The old folks in the South used to tell that to children so they wouldn't want to drink coffee. The last thing anybody wanted to be was black.'' Echoes of that superstition still trouble members of Stevie's generation, who, even as they listen to Martin Luther King Jr. and rally around a ``Black Is Beautiful'' grafitto, still compare dark skin unfavorably to light. Shyly at first, Stevie gains personal and racial confidence, refusing to be cowed by a jealous girl who wants to fight, a string of chauvinistic boyfriends, or a rich girl who looks down on the neighborhood. Even if transitions are often jarring--as when a reserved, square boy is suddenly transformed into a dashiki-wearing revolutionary--Sinclair gives a realistic portrayal of personal awakening during a politically tumultuous time. (Jan.)