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Virgin Soul: A Novel Hardcover – April 18, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (April 18, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670026581
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670026586
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #805,089 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Raised by her aunt and uncle, Geniece has always felt like a bit of an outsider. But when she goes to college, she begins a journey of personal discovery that takes on a highly political edge. Set in the Bay Area in the 1960s, Juanita’s novel portrays Geniece’s life as an African American woman at the time of the black-power movement. As Geniece becomes more involved with the Black Panthers, she becomes increasingly militant, which prompts conflict with the family who raised her. Juanita shows Geniece’s evolution by contrasting her gradually shifting positions on a variety of personal matters and social issues, from hair styles to sexual relations, racism, and oppression. This blend of personal and political drives the narrative and makes for an intriguing look at coming-of-age in the 1960s. --Eve Gaus


Praise for Virgin Soul:

"Witty and deeply engaging . . . about ideas and the passions generated by revolution and romantic love."
Hector Tobar, Los Angeles Times

“A funny and wise read. More than anything, Virgin Soul is a captivating tale about self-love told through the eyes of an unforgettable heroine.”

“Electrifying . . . Virgin Soul yields an engaging coming-of-age story, one that recalls a turbulent era in captivating prose.”
San Jose Mercury News

“Juanita’s prose immediately immerses the reader in the time and place of its lead character. . . [who] progresses from middle-class “good girl” to member of the Black Panthers, witnessing and experiencing the poverty, violence, excesses and rhetoric of the time, a transition handled by Juanita with assured matter-of-factness . . . The unique perspective she offers on a volatile period of American history gives the narrative immediacy and authenticity.”
Publishers Weekly

“[With] rhythmic language and nervy dialog  . . . this wild ride through the rise of the militant Black Panther Party highlights differing viewpoints within the civil rights movement of the Vietnam era. Fans of Bernice McFadden will enjoy discovering this new author.”
Library Journal
“An entertaining story of a young woman’s experience with one of the most radical counterculture organizations in America’s history.”
—Tess Duncan, Bust Magazine
“An intriguing look at coming-of-age in the 1960s."
—Eve Gaus, Booklist
"Virgin Soul is first class awesome, every page a crackling hungry flame. This novel about a young studious woman immersed in the black revolutionary experience of 60's Berkeley has a freshness and bright ardor that is rare in this lazy climate of American fiction."
Joy Williams, author of State of Grace
“Hard to believe it’s been almost fifty years since the formation of the Black Panthers. The novel captures that time’s particular combination of violence and possibility, and the urgency of young people who invested everything in the possibility of change, even as grand rhetoric was undercut by very human failings. Geniece is smart, wounded, hopeful, and tough. It's a pleasure to grow with her through these pages.”
Jean Thompson, author of The Humanity Project and The Year We Left Home
Virgin Soul is Judy Juanita’s exciting debut, a coming-of-age novel set in a time of peace, love and revolution. Juanita presents a heroine, wise, naive and world-wary at eighteen who finds her voice in the Black Panthers’ deadly struggle for liberation in 1960s America. Though a work of historical fiction, Virgin Soul is an intimate work, heart-breaking and compulsively readable.”
Evan Wright, author of Generation Kill   
“A novel so unlike any I’ve read in years—a little of Al Young’s poetry and humor, a little of Toni Cade Bambara’s boldness, but Judy Juanita has given us a Bay Area in her own inimitable voice, which is California like no one else. She lays it out for you. With this writer, there is no half-steppin’.”
Susan Straight, author of Between Heaven and Here
“Intense, riveting, spellbinding, this tour de force places the reader on the frontlines of the 1960’s counter culture and the Black Power movement, one of the most turbulent times in American history. More than a coming of age novel, Virgin Soul is ultimately a meditation on love. It’s about the love of Geniece’s biological family and the family of radicals who adopt her. A must read.”
Robert Alexander, author of Servant of the People

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 25 customer reviews
The writing is good and the story is engaging.
Kudos to you, Ms. Judy Juanita and I look forward to what else you will write.
June Ahern
Judy Juanita wrote a colorful and delicious story about Geniece Hightower.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Lisa on April 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Virgin Soul takes us into the world and mind of a young African American woman coming of age during the civil rights movement and up in Northern California (where I am from). My life experience is so different from the point where imagining her world is difficult for me. But the author does a touching job of making Geniece's reality totally believable and real. I can almost imagine myself in her shoes...big since I'm a post baby boomer and have only read about the time and didn't experience it. I'm also white...but still felt that the book was written for me. In my opinion it's more coming of age and confronting big personal issues at the same time you're able to branch out in the world and experience the social issues (than just about the civil rights movement).

Juanita's imagery and characters are real. I stepped into Geneice's shoes, and it came alive. Sometimes I didn't agree with the characters' perspectives as with any book. But I loved experiencing their lives. This book did what fiction is supposed to do...transport you into another reality.

My taste generally runs to classics and thrillers. But this book still resonated with me and I'm so glad I read it. Highly recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sandra Kirkland VINE VOICE on June 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Eighteen year old Geniece didn't know what she wanted, except that she wanted out. Out of Oakland, California, where she had known up with extended family when her parents weren't around. Out of being ignorant and not having a future. Out of being a virgin, and not being in the groove of the Sixties sexual revolution.

So, Geniece heads across the bridge to San Francisco where she starts pursuing her education. She does two years at a community college, then transfers to a four year college, just in time to be in at the beginning of the Black Pride movement. She makes friends with those in the movement, and the speeches she hears about black empowerment starts to radicalize her. Her friends and she begin to live as the movement wanted, black friends, black lovers, black literature, helping other black families to make it through life.

Geniece and her friends end up joining the Black Panther Party. They know the party leaders such as Bobby Seale, Stokely Carmichael, Huey P. Newton, and Bobby Ethridge. Geniece becomes the editor of the BPP newspaper, while continuing her education. She also becomes involved in tutoring and programs such as feeding breakfast to young children. As the movement becomes more radical, she must decide if this is still the place for her to make her dreams come true.

Judy Juanita has written a stirring novel that transports the reader back to the Sixties. San Francisco was the hub of much of the social turmoil that ended up changing the country; the Black Power movement, the hippie movement, and others. She effectively outlines the impetus that drove young people to join the movements and how this decision affected their lives. This book is recommended for readers who are interested in the time period or in black history.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Book Dork VINE VOICE on April 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Virgin Soul by Judy Juanita is about a young black woman trying to both simultaneously educate herself academically and socially. Geniece grows up in 1960s Oakland without her parents, feeling pressured to earn her degree and a steady gig. She studies hard through two years of community college so that she can transfer to CSU San Francisco. Meanwhile, she becomes entrenched in the Black Panther movement during an extremely volatile time in the Civil Rights Movement. Geniece must also handle her love life, and the serious implications it has by the end of the book.

This typically would not be something I would normally choose for myself, although I am glad I had the opportunity to read about a portion of history I know little about. Reading from an African American woman's perspective during the radical sixties was also new for me- it was a voice that I can definitely appreciate. My one issue with the book was the last twenty or so pages- so many important events were packed in, as well as (what I thought) an unnecessary interaction between Geniece and some children she helps take care of (if it would have happened earlier in the book it would have worked better).

While I don't thin Virgin Soul is for everyone, those that are interested in the African American perspective of the sixties, or the Black Power movement, should probably give it a try. As someone from Northern California, I also got a kick out of reading places I've visited or spent time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By June Ahern on July 7, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Virgin Soul is a rare treat and insight to the happenings of a city (San Francisco in the world's sights. For those who think Flower Power was all crazy kids, it had a huge impact on society beyond the daisies in the hair and the LSD bad trips. The 1960's was a turbulent and riveting time historically and the people who lived in the city or those who came, experienced the dramatic changes in values, models and views socially and politically. The Black Panthers growth with the unforgettable Bay Area leaders that Ms. Juanita brings into her story, remain forever big and colorful as they were then. Reading about them and the story one will experience a sense of being back in the sixties. I know, I was there, coming of age in San Francisco. This story is much more than about the Black Panther movement, it's about a young woman seeking to understand who she is, what's her life purpose and how does she move beyond her past. Living in the city for her proved that no matter one's upbringing, moral values, the heat of the changes grabbed up everyone to think and act differently. Ms. Juanita presents that quandary in a most impressive way, truly visual...I could see and hear it all. Since this is her debut novel, I won't go into areas that might have lacked in interest to me as a reader because all in all - it is a beautifully told story of a a time and place that will not be forgotten by those who were there and those who wished they were. With all my research and interviews for my own novel about that time and BP, I wish I'd met this author to interview. She's so ALIVE in her writings with colorful scenarios. Kudos to you, Ms. Judy Juanita and I look forward to what else you will write.
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