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Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart


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About the Author

In addition to many prize-winning and bestselling novels, including We Were the Mulvaneys, A Book of American Martyrs, Black Water, Because It Is Bitter and Because It Is My Heart, and Broke Heart Blues, Joyce Carol Oates is the author of a number of works of gothic fiction including Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque, a World Fantasy Award nominee; and Zombie, winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Best Horror Novel, awarded by the Horror Writers' Association. In 1994, Oates received the Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award in Horror Fiction. She is the editor of American Gothic Tales.


The ever-prolific Oates is on familiar ground in her newest novel, which treats the seedy side of a working-class city in upstate New York in the 1950s. Her heroine will be familiar to Oates fans, too: Iris Courtney is the only child of a broken home, gambling father, and alcoholic mother; she's waif-like, intelligent, and sensitive and carries with her the air of a victim. When a black classmate--handsome, academic, athletic Jinx Fairchild--murders mean ``white trash'' Little Red Garlock to protect Iris from Red's lewd advances, Iris carries the secret through her adolescence. The Courtney, Garlock, and Fairchild families are here used to explore racism at a time of awakening social consciousness, but Iris alone seems fully imagined. A large, significant work that will please Oates fans. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/89.-- Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., Va.

Murder galvanizes an industrial town in upstate New York when a husky red-haired corpse is fished from a polluted river in 1956. With sure strokes, Oates ( American Appetites ) delineates the racial hatreds leading to the crime that then entangles black basketball hero Verlyn (``Jinx'') Fairchild and blonde Iris Courtney. Their coming of age from the mid-'50s to the mid-'60s--in the shadow of the civil rights struggle and John F. Kennedy's assassination--their love and their unpremeditated complicity in the town's violence are brilliantly portrayed. Jinx, appealing in his ``innocence and impotence,'' can't help himself or his brother, Sugar Baby, wrecked by drug dealing. Iris, alert, locked into icy detachment, watches Jinx suffer, while her own alcoholic mother and gambling father drift apart. Blotting out her problems, Iris sleepwalks into the household of the exotic Savages, art historians who prize her beauty. Oates is a master at realizing the social forces that twist the fates of her characters. BOMC dual main selection. (Apr.)

Praise for Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart

"Fiction of extraordinary imaginative power."--Marilynne Robinson, The New York Times Book Review "An impressive performance...fearless....There seems to be no erotic passion, no violence of act or language, no addiction, no fatal failure of nerve that is beyond Oates's reach when it comes to rendering it in fiction."--Seattle Times/Post-Intelligencer "Oates is a master novelist....Thrilling's hard to stop reading."--USA Today

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