The Darkest Child (Paperback)
A new edition of this award-winning modern classic, with an introduction by Tayari Jones (An American Marriage), an excerpt from the never before seen follow-up, and discussion guide.
Pakersfield, Georgia, 1958: Thirteen-year-old Tangy Mae Quinn is the sixth of ten fatherless siblings. She is the darkest-skinned among them and therefore the ugliest in her mother, Rozelle’s, estimation, but she’s also the brightest. Rozelle—beautiful, charismatic, and light-skinned—exercises a violent hold over her children. Fearing abandonment, she pulls them from school at the age of twelve and sends them to earn their keep for the household, whether in domestic service, in the fields, or at “the farmhouse” on the edge of town, where Rozelle beds local men for money.
But Tangy Mae has been selected to be part of the first integrated class at a nearby white high school. She has a chance to change her life, but can she break from Rozelle’s grasp without ruinous—even fatal—consequences?
About the Author
Delores Phillips was born in Bartow County, Georgia in 1950, the second of four children. She graduated from Cleveland State University with a bachelor of arts in English and worked as a nurse at a state psychiatric hospital in Cleveland. Her work has appeared in Jean’s Journal, Black Times, and The Crisis. She passed away in 2014; The Darkest Child was her only novel.
Praise for The Darkest Child
Winner of the Black Caucus of the ALA Award
Nominee for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award
“The Darkest Child is a great gift, a timeless American treasure.”
—Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage
"A well-written story that underscores the power of education, The Darkest Child paints a stark picture about life and opportunity for a young black girl in 1950s Jim Crow Georgia. This book brings up timely conversations—the characters haunted me long after I finished reading.”
—Octavia Spencer, Academy Award–winning actress from The Help and Hidden Figures
“Filled with grand plot events and clearly identifiable villains and victims . . . lush with detail and captivating with its story of racial tension and family violence.”
—The Washington Post Book World
“Phillips writes with a no-nonsense elegance . . . As a vision of African-American life, The Darkest Child is one of the harshest novels to arrive in many years . . . [Phillips] buttresses those harsh episodes with a depth of characterization worthy of Chekhov, pitch-perfect dialogue, and a profound knowledge of the segregated South in the ’50s.”
—The New Leader
“[An] exceptional debut novel . . . [Has] a depth and dimension not often characteristic of a first novel.”
—Library Journal, Starred Review
“Bold memorable characters and enough drama to keep you up all night wondering what can possibly happen next.”
—The Black Book Review
“Evil’s regenerative powers and one girl’s fierce resistance . . . A book that deserves a wide audience.”
—The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Horrific and gripping.”
—Dallas Morning News
“A fierce and bitter story, told with striking authority. Delores Phillips has created a family and a town rich with resonant voices, all of them caught up in struggles both personal and public, and a mother so wildly commanding she earns a place beside some of the great mad women who embitter the lives of the children who love them.”
—Rosellen Brown, author of Half a Heart and Civil Wars
“[A] searing sebut . . . Using a cast of powerfully drawn characters, Phillips captures life in a town that serves as a microcosm of a world on the brink of change.”
“A grim tale, set in the dying days of segregation, about one young woman’s struggle to escape her past, her mother, and her duties . . . Phillips writes vividly.”
“A brilliant, unnerving, memorable debut.”