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Angel of Harlem: A Novel (Strivers Row) Hardcover – September 28, 2004

4.6 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

May Edward Chinn (1896–1980), the first black female doctor in New York City, is the inspiration for Haulsey's (TheRed Moon) stirring second novel. May's mother, Lulu, makes tremendous sacrifices for her talented daughter, working to send May to the best schools and to secure a piano for May to explore her musical talent. A high school pregnancy is a hurdle, but Lulu arranges for the baby's informal adoption, and May aces the entrance examination for Columbia's Teacher's College. When a racist professor forces her away from music, she turns to science, doggedly continuing through medical school despite setbacks and discouragement, earning the grudging respect of her colleagues, the gratitude of her patients and the attention of a series of suitors. After she completes an internship at Harlem Hospital (the first black woman to do so), she works in a sanatorium before eventually opening her own practice. The novel is faithful to the known details of Chinn's life, and the vibrancy of 1920s Harlem shines through in Chinn's fictitious encounters with prominent historical figures of the time, from Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes to Jean Toomer, Fats Waller and Wallace Thurman. Haulsey's respectful homage to Chinn and her accomplishments will bring overdue attention to this notable figure in African-American history.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

This novelized account of the life of Dr. May Chinn, a woman who broke the barriers in the medical profession in the 1920s and became a leading specialist in cancer treatment, also features the dazzling cultural, social, and political life of the Harlem Renaissance. Haulsey traces Chinn's early life of abject poverty, a childhood illness that left her face scarred for much of her life, and the stultifying social conditions of the time, including the evaluation of a racist professor that forces her to give up a life in music and switch to medicine. Written in the first person, Chinn recounts rejection by her father and a lifelong effort at reconciliation, lost loves, and an unerring dedication to providing health care to the poor and dispossessed. Along the way, she develops friendships with Harlem's luminaries, including Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neale Hurston. Haulsey manages to convey the human dimensions of a young woman struggling with self-doubt, family conflicts, and societal limitations. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Series: Strivers Row
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: One World/Ballantine; 1st edition (September 28, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375508708
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375508707
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,153,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Dr. May Edward Chinn, New York's first black female doctor, serves as the inspiration for Kuwana Haulsey's ANGEL OF HARLEM. So often, persons of historical significance are narrowed down to brief biographical sketches, but HaulSey has truly brought the life of Dr. Chinn alive in this stirring novel. Dr. Chinn's early childhood is explored, and her mother's lifelong commitment to her education is highlighted. Her father's narrow views of what was considered proper for women, strict rules and emotional distance, also had a strong influence on his daughter's life. In spite of her achievements, Dr. Chinn's life was far from easy. She became pregnant by her high school sweetheart, who upon learning this, he promptly ended the relationship. She was forced, by her parents, to give her child up for adoption.

In spite of the fact that she never completed high school, she was accepted at Columbia University where she first wanted to study music. Because of discrimination, she eventually changed her major and this led to her career as a physician. Dr. Chinn fought discrimination on two levels, race and gender but was persistent enough to succeed in spite of these limitations. In addition to her academic and professional accomplishments, her social life allowed her to cross paths with many notable Harlem Renaissance figures such as Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Fats Waller, and Madam C.J. Walker. She also served as a pianist who accompanied Paul Robeson in many of his early performances.

This book is a wonderful testament to the life of a truly amazing woman who was persistent enough to break down walls and bring down glass ceilings. While there were moments when I felt the story stalled, overall the author did an excellent job.
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Format: Hardcover
If one believes that some people are truly destined for greatness regardless of their station in life, then Dr. May Edward Chinn is a perfect example. May is conceived as a "love child" of a married middle-aged former slave and an orphaned teenaged Indian maiden. The shame of their affair forces her parents to relocate to Harlem only to meet unemployment, impoverished living conditions, and rampant racial discrimination. Despite her father's negativism, chauvinistic views, and emotional abandonment, it is her mother's tenacity and belief in education that propels young May to become proficient in her studies and master the piano. Her dreams of studying at Julliard on a music scholarship are crushed by an unplanned teenaged pregnancy in which she unwillingly gives the child up for adoption. She eventually drops out of high school due to a lengthy bout of depression stemming from the adoption and deferred dreams.

Fate intercedes and through several well-timed networking opportunities along with a little name-dropping (and/or perhaps coincidence), she applies, is accepted, and enrolls at Columbia to study music only to be harassed by a racist professor. However, when one door closes, a window opens and through a series of what could be considered "divine" interventions, she changes her major to science and the rest is history. She eventually becomes the first African American female doctor in New York City and a renowned medical pioneer - however, her road to success is an arduous journey filled with racism, colorism, sexism (even from African American men), financial burdens, and familial strains which the author construes with great sentiment.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a very strong novel by a talented young writer. Dr. May Chinn's story is an important and inspirational one. I didn't know that much about the actual facts of her life, so I'm not sure just where the fiction starts and ends in this version of events, but that's part of the magic of this book. Haulsey creates a credible protagonist and leads us along through the pitfalls and triumphs of her life. I was often reminded of the terrible aspects of racism still prevalent in America throughout the twentieth century - and reminded that these things were not just for the South. That's valuable too. Haulsey isn't heavy-handed with this; it's just a fact of life and part of the fabric of the times she writes about. I'd also recommend this one to highschool age readers. Overall, a well-written, positive story. I look forward to whatever she does next. I'm hopeful that she'll soon emerge as one of our most prominent voices. That's the only reason I didn't give her five stars. I'm, hopefully, saving that last one for her next book.
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Format: Hardcover
This novel covers the life of Dr Mae Chinn and her rise to fame. Born in extreme poverty conditions, she overcomes numerous obtacles by having a helpful mother with fortitude and desires and eventually gains an education. Although she faced horrific hardships such as having to give up a very much wanted child (adoption)as well as racism, sexism, jealousy and other negatives, she refused to give up and then secured a medical degree as a first time woman of that era. She diligently worked to help the people of Harlem, NY with thier plights of illnesses and troubles. For this reason, she wore a halo as an ANGEL. Great read!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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