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The Girl Who Fell from the Sky Paperback – January 11, 2011

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Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, February 2010: Early on in The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, Rachel Morse (the girl in question) wonders about being "tender-headed." It's how her grandmother chides her for wincing at having her hair brushed, but it's also a way of understanding how Rachel grapples with the world in which she landed. Her parents, a Danish woman and an African-American G.I., tried to hold her and her siblings aloft from questions of race, and their failure there is both tragic and tenderly wrought. After sustaining an unimaginable trauma, Rachel resumes her life as a black girl, an identity she quickly learns to adopt but at heart is always reconciling with the life she knew before. Heidi W. Durrow bolsters her story with a chorus of voices that often see what Rachel can't--this is particularly true in the case of Brick, the only witness to her fall. There's a poetry to these characters that draws you into their lives, making for a beautiful and earnest coming-of-age novel that speaks as eloquently to teens as it does to adults. --Anne Bartholomew --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Durrow's debut draws from her own upbringing as the brown-skinned, blue-eyed daughter of a Danish woman and a black G.I. to create Rachel Morse, a young girl with an identical heritage growing up in the early 1980s. After a devastating family tragedy in Chicago with Rachel the only survivor, she goes to live with the paternal grandmother she's never met, in a decidedly black neighborhood in Portland, Ore. Suddenly, at 11, Rachel is in a world that demands her to be either white or black. As she struggles with her grief and the haunting, yet-to-be-revealed truth of the tragedy, her appearance and intelligence place her under constant scrutiny. Laronne, Rachel's deceased mother's employer, and Brick, a young boy who witnessed the tragedy and because of his personal misfortunes is drawn into Rachel's world, help piece together the puzzle of Rachel's family. Taut prose, a controversial conclusion and the thoughtful reflection on racism and racial identity resonate without treading into political or even overtly specific agenda waters, as the story succeeds as both a modern coming-of-age and relevant social commentary. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; Reprint edition (January 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616200154
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616200152
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (384 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,938 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Heidi W. Durrow is the New York Times best-selling author of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky (Algonquin Books), which received writer Barbara Kingsolver's 2008 PEN/Bellwether Prize, and is already a book club favorite. The Girl Who Fell From the Sky has been hailed as one of the Best Novels of 2010 by the Washington Post, a Top 10 Book of 2010 by The Oregonian, a Top 10 Buzz Book of 2010 by the Boston Herald and named a Top 10 Debut of 2010 by Booklist. Ebony Magazine named Heidi as one of its Power 100 Leaders of 2010 along with writers Edwidge Danticat, and Malcolm Gladwell. Heidi was nominated for a 2011 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Debut.
Heidi W. Durrow is a graduate of Stanford, Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism and Yale Law School.
Originally from Portland, Oregon, Heidi has worked as a corporate litigator at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, and as a Life Skills trainer to professional athletes of the National Football League and National Basketball Association. She was the co-host of the award-winning weekly podcast Mixed Chicks Chat and now host of The Mixed Experience; and was a founder and executive producer of the now defunct Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival. She is now spearheading the Mixed Remixed Festival, an annual free public event, that celebrates stories of the Mixed experience. She is an occasional essay contributor to National Public Radio.
She is the recipient of a Fellowship in Fiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts, a Jerome Foundation Fellowship for Emerging Writers, a Jentel Foundation Residency, and won top honors in the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition and the Chapter One Fiction Contest. She has received grants from the Elizabeth George Foundation, the American Scandinavian Foundation, the Roth Endowment and the American Antiquarian Society. She has also received Fellowships to the Norman Mailer Writers' Colony and the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference. Durrow's writing has appeared in the New York Times, Ebony Magazine, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Literary Review, Smokelong Quarterly, Callaloo, Poem/Memoir/Story, the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, Essence magazine, and Newsday.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

182 of 191 people found the following review helpful By Christina B. on February 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Rachel, the daughter of a Danish woman and African American G.I., grew up in Germany. With her light brown skin and blue eyes, Rachel did not see herself as anything but her parents' child. When tragedy strikes her family after moving to America, Rachel moves in with her paternal grandmother. In Portland, Rachel feels alienated from her family and schoolmates, unable to fit into categories of white or black, and she struggles with memories of her mother. Although told mostly from Rachel's point of view, the novel also follows Rachel's father, her mother's boss, and a young boy who witnessed the family tragedy as Rachel attempts to discover who she is beyond others' labels.

Durrow has created a unique story that combines a young woman's search for identity with a family's history of shame and secrets. The novel begins with Rachel narrating her move to Portland and is told in stark, simple prose. In Portland, Rachel becomes acutely aware of her lack of belonging. She is "light-skinned-ed;" she "talk[s]" white" and can't help but judge her grandmother for her lack of formal English. She fails to fall into pre-established categories.

Meanwhile, pieces of Rachel's parents' history are filled in. Both parents are filled with shame for their inability to protect their children, although their shame comes from different sources. Rachel's mother exemplifies a woman unable to to accept or actively reject that many Americans do not see her children as her own and see them only as a skin color.

The detachment of the first part of the novel distanced me as a reader and felt slow, but as Rachel grew, I grew closer to her and her story.
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47 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Litocracy on October 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Girl Who Fell from the Sky" tells a story of a family tragedy and survival from the points of view of five interconnected characters. Though the story is in fact very simple, the nonlinear time line, limited narrators, and unconventional sentence structure, give the novel an odd sense of unreality and mystery--an airy elusiveness that keeps readers guessing, working to put the pieces together.

Set in 1980s Portland, OR, the novel opens innocuously with 10-year-old Rachel moving in with her grandmother. It's clear that the move is precipitated by some recent family tragedy, but the exact nature of what has happened remains at first obscure. Rachel's first-person, child's-eye-view narration is absorbing. Bright and perceptive, she eagerly relates the details that strike her as new and curious--her grandmother's unfamiliar speech and special lavender lotion, her aunt Loretta's smooth beauty and "potential lizard," Drew. More reluctantly, she discusses her sense of cultural alienation as the daughter of an African American serviceman and a Danish woman, living in America (and experiencing American racial tensions) for almost the first time. Rachel feels divided from the white girls at school because of her darker skin, alienated from black girls because of her blue eyes and her over-achiever status. She also desperately misses the hybrid Danish-American culture in which she was raised.

Like the best first-person narrators, Rachel tells readers more than she means to, occasionally even more than she herself understands.
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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Lynda G Taylor on August 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"The Girl Who Fell from the Sky" is more a book for teens than an adult novel. It concerns a biracial girl who is sent to Portland, Ore. to live with her black grandmother after the tragic and puzzling deaths of her mother and siblings. While the subject matter is always ripe for discussion, I had hoped for something meatier that was part mystery, part thoughtfut treatment of race relations. Intead, I found the book to be a tad juvenile and fell flat when the mystery did not pan out. It was also annoying that the outlook changes from chapter to chapter depending on which character is telling the story. It was ok but I was sorry I chose it for my book club selection.
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82 of 95 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on January 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Rachel a bi-racial Danish and Black, light skinned with blue eyes black girl is delivered to her black grandmother after her mother, brother and baby sister fall off the roof of their apartment building. Her new neighborhood is surrounded with mostly black children and as far from home as she could end up. Rachel struggles to fit in with her new family and piece together her shattered life. Her coming of age story is contrasted with stories from some of those impacted by the tragedy. Through Rachel's memories and stories from her distant father, her mother, her mother's employer, and a young boy who witnessed the tragedy, we slowly piece together what happened on the roof as well as more family secrets that contributed to it. We also see how this event ultimately shapes Rachel's life.

The mystery at the center of the story is slowly unraveled as the book shifts amongst narrators, perspective and time. Instead of confusing or irritating its audience, the novel's structure only adds to its power. This sad and compelling plot is further credited by a strinkingly unique voice.

The Girl who Fell from the Sky is sure to be one of the best books of 2010.
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