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The Fall of Rome: A Novel Paperback – January 7, 2003

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 219 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (January 7, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743227212
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743227216
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 6.3 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #784,489 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An upscale New England prep school is the setting for an intense confrontation between a brilliant Latin teacher and a precocious student in Southgate's quietly stunning second novel (after Another Way to Dance). Jeremy Washington is the erudite African-American academic whose carefully constructed world begins to collapse with the simultaneous arrival of Jana Hansen, a high-spirited, divorced English teacher, and Rashid Bryson, one of the few African-American students at the elite Chelsea School. Hansen makes the first dent in Washington's emotional armor when the attraction between the two teachers bubbles over into a romantic night after they chaperone a school dance. But Hansen is put off by Washington's reluctance to help her with the troubled Bryson, who is struggling to deal with the tragic death of his brother, Kofi, a former scholarship student whose promising stint at a private school was curtailed when he was killed in a random shooting in their Brooklyn neighborhood. Washington cites the youth's lack of discipline as the reason for his unwillingness, but when Bryson calls out Washington after receiving a blatantly unfair grade in Latin class, their meeting strikes a chord from Washington's own troubled past that reveals the real source of his antipathy. Southgate is a compelling storyteller who slowly builds tension while drawing three marvelously diverse characters, and her plot transcends its racial themes as she steers her charges toward a surprising but believable ending. This is a deeply thoughtful, literate novel, and Southgate's ability to explore the social and emotional elements that unite and divide us establishes her as a serious talent. Agent, Geri Thoma.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-Jerome teaches Latin at the Chelsea School, an elite Eastern boarding school for boys. He describes himself as "the only Negro on the faculty," and his love for classical civilization isolates him-but it also has taught him the discipline to wrest from the world, against all odds, this life that suits him so well. He is deeply committed to the institution's "values of order, decorum, rectitude," and disdainful of what he sees as the self-defeating attitude of many young blacks. Enter Rashid, a troubled but determined young African-American city boy. His imagination is captured by a Chelsea brochure's promise to "change the future"-but when he gets there, the school's WASP culture, and Jerome's hostility, keep him seriously off-balance. Jana, a new teacher, worked for many years in Cleveland's inner-city schools, where she always was the only white woman. She wants to help Rashid, and she and Jerome have a problematic sexual liaison. By the time the headmaster asks them all to recruit more "diverse" students, their lives are woven together in a complicated dynamic that reveals each character's deepest strengths and flaws. This moving story is told from their three perspectives in a simple, elegant, and graceful style. The book is easy to read yet resonates richly with many insights and issues that most readers should readily recognize and relate to.
Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Martha Southgate is the author of four novels. Her newest, The Taste of Salt, published by Algonquin Books, is in stores and available for pre-order now. Her previous novel, Third Girl from the Left, won the Best Novel of the Year award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and was shortlisted for the PEN/Beyond Margins Award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy award. Her novel The Fall of Rome received the 2003 Alex Award from the American Library Association and was named one of the best novels of 2002 by Jonathan Yardley of the Washington Post. She is also the author of Another Way to Dance, which won the Coretta Scott King Genesis Award for Best First Novel. She received a 2002 New York Foundation for the Arts grant and has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. Her July 2007 essay from the New York Times Book Review, "Writers Like Me" received considerable notice and appears in the anthology Best African-American Essays 2009. Previous non-fiction articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine,O, Premiere, and Essence.

Customer Reviews

I loved how the author was able to articulate such emotion on its pages.
How he struggles to gain a sense of balance is a compelling story that can motivate a young man coming of age.
Amazon Customer
I read a page, put it down, read another page, trying to stretch the story out.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By M.C. Beamon on February 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover
"While the Coliseum stands, Rome shall stand; when the Coliseum falls, Rome shall fall; when Rome falls, the world shall fall." [Venerable Bede (c. 673-735) quoting a prophecy of Anglo-Saxon pilgrims."
It is the figurative fall of "Rome" or the crumbling of the world, as three central characters know it, which is at the core of the gripping debut novel by Martha Southgate. Selected for the "Discovering New Writers Program" at [store], "The Fall of Rome" is a fictional drama set at the Chelsea School, an elite, predominantly white boarding school in upstate New York. I took particular note of this story since the boarding school experience was a part of my educational past, as well.
A fluently told story, which deals with complex issues in a direct and honest way, "The Fall of Rome" is a quintessential coming of age story, but adds the quest for racial identity as a focal point.
Rashid Bryson, a troubled African-American who takes on prep school life to fulfill his parents and brother's dream, is emotional unprepared to deal with the changes in himself, the ignorance and bias of others, as well as the obstacles presented by those who on the surface would appear to be friend and not foe.
Having immersed himself in a school culture embracing the philosophy of ancient Rome, namely a society based on racial egalitarianism, Rashid must delve below the surface of his teachers and colleagues to determine who is an ally and who is an enemy. He quickly learns that individual merit should be determined by the spirit and loyalty of an individual rather than skin color.
By the end of "The Fall of Rome", Rashid learns the lesson ancient Roman Cicero purports: "by doubting we come at truth," Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 AD - 43 AD).
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By 2nd sunshine on January 8, 2002
Format: Hardcover
In the past,for example during the civil rights era, Blacks tried their best to be respectable, and gain respect by being mainstream. They dressed proper, talked proper, and behaved proper when interacting with Whites so they would be taken seriously. Nowadays, Blacks demand respect without feeling as if they must make "the man" comfortable. This book is about an old era black man interacting with a new era black teen in an unchanged era preppy White boarding school. Although both males share sketchy pasts, it's very interesting the way history here plays on the expression of black culture. The author does not make judgements about which route is better, she just does an excellent job of illustrating the differences. It's true, some blacks may be embarrased when they see other blacks dancing like "a fool" in front of a group of Whites, others may be proud of those same blacks "keeping it real" for their music and their form of dance in spite of the White setting. And then there's the White woman who offers her perspectives on the events leading up to the end of Jamal's freshman year at prep school. Times they are a changin' but are they for the better? It depends on who you ask.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Reader's Paradise VINE VOICE on February 3, 2002
Format: Hardcover
When I first choose this book I didn't expect a literary read. I thought this would be another novel just like those I've read in the past; I was happily mistaken. This book was a wonderful journey into the life of Rashid Bryson a glimpse of his brothers death through Rashid his mother and father's eyes, his latin teacher Mr. Washington a man so absorbed in his own pain a racial marathon, he can't see for looking, and lastly but not least Ms. Hansen Rashid's caucasin English teacher who comes to his aid. The Fall of Rome is told by these three main characters.Mr. Washington is a villian you love to hate - and Rashid the character you continue to root for. Ms Southgate outdid herself with this first novel and I look forward to her works in the future...^5 and a courtesy to you Martha Southgate.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 8, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I truly enjoyed this one. It moved quickly (I was never bored) and the characters seemed very real and touching. All in all, a compelling book well worth reading.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By K. Kimbrough on July 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The Fall of Rome; What a befitting title that vividly displays the collapsing of ideas that take place in this book. Martha Southgate introduces a triangle of sorts between a Black man, a Black boy and a White woman; All having their own individual issues however linked by an external element in the name of Chelsea, an all-boys school in Connecticut.

Jerome Washington is the only African American faculty member and a teacher of Latin at the prestigious Chelsea. He comes to Chelsea to escape life defined by race, as he had known it to be, and to pursue excellence and comfort in the ideas and standards of the ancient philosophers of Rome and the traditions of Chelsea. Rashid Bryson, a fourteen year-old boy from New York City comes into an unfamiliar environment of Chelsea with fear and a heavy heart looking to Mr. Washington as a possible salvation. Jana Hansen is a new teacher at Chelsea who has seemingly taken an interest in both Jerome and Rashid; Jerome as a potential mate and Rashid as a student with potential. As they get to know each other all three soon find out when one is in unfamiliar territory one should have no expectations. Their journey together is plagued with certain expectations misdirected in the midst of their own personal losses. When their issues lead up to a powerful, and anticipated confrontation we find that the results are unexpected but ultimately not surprising.

This book is complex and layered. There are so many things that could be discussed that one review couldn't cover it all. I can fully see this book as required reading in an English, Philosophy, or Sociology class in high school and college. It is beautifully written and unhurried. The only thing that keeps this book from a 5 star rating is my personal issue with how certain relationships within the book were portrayed. Aside from this, The Fall of Rome by Martha Southgate is a highly recommended read.

APOOO Bookclub
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