Nora White is a recent high school graduate searching for herself, trying to find her voice. A seed looking for the right environment. It’s not the family farm, not the acres that provide food and establish ownership. It’s not the South, with its stench of slavery and racism. It has to be Harlem, New York. It has to be the Mecca, where blacks have finally arrived, right? Only there, in that environment, will Nora find her voice. Because she wants to write. Be mentioned among the likes of Langston and Zora Neal. So she flees the South for greener grasses. Leaves her mother and father’s good graces. She essentially runs away from home, from her family, and maybe even from herself. Will she find good soil and break ground? Or will she just end up breaking her parents’ hearts?
The first thing that drew me to this novel was its beautiful cover. A deep blue sky fading into a sunset which bakes an old country road golden brown. After reading the description and the first few pages, I was hooked by elegant prose and alliteration (e.g. “knew the mind of a mule”). I enjoyed the use of personification, when the author says that the sun was an overseer. The plot moved quickly but did jump around a bit from relative past to relative present. However, the author clearly notes this movement. So it assists the reader.
There’s a little mystery, which I love. What was it about Nora’s mother, Molly White? What family secret was always at the tip of the tongue? I enjoyed the way that mystery kept peeking out at you. To me, that tugs at the reader. Keeps him and her intrigued.
The characters were well developed and memorable. You’ll love Nora’s father, Gideon AKA Dee Dee, because he’s ‘bout that life! You’ll hate Ms. Charlotte, because she’s eccentric and entitled. There are characters you just aren’t sure about like Lisa, no spoilers. Then there are the famous Harlem Renaissance folks with whom Nora rubs elbows. I won’t tell you who, exactly, but they are some of Harlem’s elites.
Overall, RENAISSANCE is beautifully written, with an ending that will have you craving book two to see what happens next. Come on, Book Two!
For more info about this book and other titles written by Yecheilyah Ysrayl, check out yecheilyahysrayl.com