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The Activist's Daughter
by Ellyn Bache

Category: Fiction / Literary
0 pages; ISBN: 1883523184

Rating: 8/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Kathryn Lively


Ellyn Bache serves up an interesting tale of relationships and identity in The Activist's Daughter. Living in bustling, Kennedy-era Washington, D.C., the Rosinsky family would appear to blend in well with their surroundings, if not for father Leonard's despondance over his reputation and career being destroyed after the McCarthy trials and mother Leah's determination to single-handedly help every worthy civil rights cause in the nation. Embarassed and angered by her mother's attention toward other people (and lack thereof toward her own family), seventeen-year-old Beryl wishes to break altogether from the activist's shadow. The best answer appears to be enrolling in an out-of-state college--North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a different country altogether in 1963.

Once settled in with two pretty, Protestant roommates (Jewish-born Beryl tends to lean towards atheism), Beryl finds that despite her mother's absence she has trouble escaping the climate of activism. The addition of a black co-ed to her dormitory, for one, draws her back into civil rights issues as her friends and peers band together to fight segregation in the college town. When Beryl seeks solace in an awkward relationship with a moody, polio-stricken ex-student whom she thinks has no interest in such matters, she soon discovers different. Any attempts Beryl has at establishing her own identity at Chapel Hill quickly fail as we see her slowly become more and more like her mother--sympathetic for the underdog and unafraid to let her anger show, as we see when Beryl puts herself in the same situations as her mother. These make for the strongest moments in the story, when Beryl's maturity shines through her obvious, though at times reluctant, concern for others.

The Activist's Daughter is straightforward storytelling; though I would have liked to have seen more interaction between Beryl and her mother (who disappears mid-story and seems to pop up when convenient), Bache compensates for this strong conflict by keeping Leah in spirit, as seen in Beryl as we watch her grow.


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