This is a coming of age novel of a Black girl, Ruth-Ann Weathering, born in Mandarin Florida in 1900. It traces events from 1913–1920.
In 1977, when Toni Morrison was an editor for Random House, she read an early version of Raisins in Milk. In a letter she wrote to the author, she said “… I loved so much of the writing… The prose, the description that is the omnipresent omniscient author’s, is splendid.” But the woman who would go on to win the Nobel Prize for literature also said, “The real problem… is that the characters seem thinner and more conventional than they are.”
The author has spent the intervening years revising the story, addressing Ms. Morrison’s concerns. The central question is whether he has met the challenge offered forty years ago by the country’s foremost writer. That will be for the reader to decide. This can definitely be said. From the first page of Raisins in Milk the reader enters an unknown world. No living human being has a personal memory of Jacksonville, Florida in 1913. Yet that time and place had an eradicable impact on life in the United States that continues today, one hundred and eighteen years later. Once you turn the first page and enter the world of Ruth-Ann Weathering, you will understand why.
“The opening sequence of this lovely book had me gripping the arms of my reading chair as the main character, Ruth-Ann runs for her life, chased by a wild, mean-spirited, half-mad horse. It’s a riveting sequence. There’s another, just as gripping, but I don’t want to give too much away! Raisins captures to great effect the day-to-day lives of African Americans in Florida, just after the dawn of the 20th century. The cumulative effect of “this life” (these lives) is that no matter what one’s accomplishments, no matter what one’s strivings and dreams, no matter what one may have done to protect one’s self and one’s family from harm, there was no protection for Black people at all. The violence of racism was so crazed, based in a jealousy so pervasive it could barely be measured. It’s a heartbreaker, but it’s our history. In the midst of this there is love.”Denise Nicholas, actor, playwright, novelist: author of critically acclaimed, Freshwater Road