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Family Paperback – December 1, 1991


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; 1st Anchor Books Ed edition (December 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385411723
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385411721
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #557,676 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this beautifuly textured first novel by the author of the acclaimed short story collection Homemade Love , the history of one slave family becomes symbolic for all slaves and slaveholders. Clora, the granddaughter of a slave and a slaveholder, refuses to accept her life as chattel and, as did her mother, escapes slavery by committing suicide. She had tried to poison her children first, but they survive and Clora's spirit narrates their story, beginning with her daughter Always. Although her siblings pass for white to escape, dark Always endures the misery of slavery including frequent rape by the slave owner. Stealing his gold to save for anticipated freedom, she risks her life to learn how to read. When she and his wife give birth to sons at the same time, Always switches the babies, of like complexion. Her son grows up in freedom, while she raises the other as a slave--a masterful metaphor for the psychological bondage that slavery imposed on slave masters. Both young men survive the Civil War, and Always lives to see them prosper after emancipation. However, as Clora narrates, racism replaces slavery and humankind continues to suffer from its divisions. With power and grace, Cooper weaves the dialect, style and myths of the South into a portrait of the hell that was slavery. Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club alternate; author tour.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

YA-- This affecting historical novel, set in the pre-Civil War South, is narrated by a slave named Clora. She describes the life she and her mother share, her mother's suicide, her own unsuccessful attempt to kill her children, and the successful taking of her own life to escape mistreatment by her masters. After her death, Clora follows her children's lives in spirit form (interestingly depicted on the cover). The treatment of the slaves is heart-wrenching. Although vivid details make readers identify with the characters and feel their pain, Cooper's writing skill will draw them into the story, despite knowing in advance that it will hurt. While the generous use of white space on each page gives the book a juvenile appearance, the format, emotional tone, and use of dialect make it more appropriate for more mature YAs. An excellent book about slave life in the pre- and post- Civil War era.
-Jacqueline J. Craig, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

J. California Cooper is a wonderful writer.
Chicago Woman in Arizona
I learned the lessons of hope, faith and charity and what joy truly loving someone can bring into your life.
Janice Williams
She weaves a story that is unpredictable and intriguing.
Antionette Jones

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jenni on June 5, 2006
Format: Paperback
This was a page-turner. Some books we must almost force ourselves to finish but this story is very compelling. When I first began reading, I had to do so very slowly so that I could understand what was happening. The reason was because the narrator of this book is herself a slave from the mid-1800's and therefore speaks with the slang and southern accent of that time. Once I got used to that I liked it because it made the story feel more authentic. I felt that it again reminds us of how inhumane slavery was and still is; that we as people must never allow for it to reoccur in todays world or future though, sadly, it still exists out there in other countries and forms. The ending was so glorious and made me feel wonderful for the characters. It is in my opinion, a great book that everyone could benefit from reading but you may have to be in the mood for it since some of it's content is more than disheartening
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Luv2Read on July 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
"Family" is a book that must be read. It is a touching, powerful book. This is one of Ms. Cooper's most dynamic books. "Family" is a generational book. It is sensational. Much praise for "Family."
"Family" shared insights into the institution of slavery. The bitterness a race suffered, but yet the courage of that race to survive. "Family" is about a mother, who did not want her children to live as she was forced to live or to endure the misery forced upon them, but in which they had no control. "Family" is moving. Indeed, some of the events will bring tears to your eyes. "Family" is about survival.
Ms. Cooper is an exceptional author and has truly captured the essence of what it is to be a 'family.'
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
I READ J.CALIFORNIA COOPER'S FAMILY IN ONE DAY. IT DEFINITELY IS A PAGE TURNER. I TELLS OF THE TRUTH OF WHAT THE SLAVES HAD TO ENDURE. ALSO, HOW THE SLAVES WERE ABLE TO RISE OUT OF THE INDIGNITY, OVERCOME THE RACIST SYSTEM, AND MAKE A LIFE FOR THEMSELVES. THE KEY WORD HERE IS ENDURE. THIS BOOK TEACHES US THAT WE NEED TO ENDURE LIFES CHALLENGES AND ULTIMATELY WE WILL COME OUT OF THE STORM MUCH STRONGER THAN WE WENT IN. MS. COOPER IS ABLE THE SPEAK TO THE INNER CORE OF THE SPIRIT OF HER CHARACTERS. FAMILY IS A MUST READ.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Patrice A. Williams on February 15, 2005
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed this book it really symbolizes the overall fabric of American society. This book is about how through loss and tragedy things have a uniquely interesting way of working themselves out. Family is also about how we as a people are all interwoven through our lives.

Sometimes through pain one kind truly triumph in the midst of a storm. The pain can be overwhelming but yet it can be trampled upon valiantly.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
With this novel J. California Cooper gives voice to what we intuitively know. She gives a face, a name, a soul to the experiences in our collective history that have weaved the fabric of life we now take comfort in. The characters in this book are real. Ms. Cooper seems to have stepped back in time and is speaking from observation. The subtle details and inner thoughts of the characters gives haunting insight into this period in our World History that still remains misunderstood and stigmatized. Family reminds us that we are all connected, one and the same, family in deed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 16, 1999
Format: Paperback
Cooper grabs your mind and soul, making the reader want to learn more about slavery.she uses such a unique form of writing.she uses an angel as an story teller.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas B. Roundtree on September 1, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
J. California Cooper's book Family is about a slave family's matriarch and how they deal with the "peculiar institution." The setting is in the pre Civil war South and the the language used is meant to put on in the south during the time. The vernacular and language give the book a warm feel. And the story allows you to see some of the more outlandish practices of the antebellum south. You find yourself growing to like the characters for all their flaws and strengths.
Having read this book for school I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to read a short interesting story about the period and the meaning of family.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By shikaboo on July 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
First, I have to admit that the book was kind of rough reading for me in the beginning because normally stories narrated in dialect give me a headache, but after the first two chapters, I got used to it and each chapter became more and more interesting. I think the slave dialect added to the "authenticity" of the story, since it was narrated by a slave woman. I think this story was unique because it while it did highlight the downtrodden conditions, it also exemplified the cleverness of the main character Always, despite all the hardships she endured. By time I was midway through the book I could hardly put it down.
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More About the Author

J. California Cooper was honored as Black Playwright of the Year, and has received the American Book Award, the James Baldwin Writing Award, and the Literary Lion Award from the American Library Association. She lives in California.

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