I'll Take You There is told by a woman looking back on her first years of college, at Syracuse in the 1970s. Her story, softened by the gauze of memory and the relief of having survived, nonetheless captures a harrowing ordeal of alienation and despair, heightened by a wrenching interracial love affair and her father's death.
Cursed by insatiable yearning and constant dissatisfaction, "Anellia" has always been haunted by her mother. With her father and brothers making her feel responsible for her mother's death, she longs for acceptance and the warmth of human compassion. When Anellia begins college, she naively seeks that compassion at a sorority house, with disastrous results. Gradually she descends to deeper levels of estrangement, until she is nearly an outcast. She is swept up in a turbulent love affair with a black philosophy student only to be abandoned. Her sense of rejection reaches a turning point when she's called away to be with her dying father.
With deftly cast philosophical meditations -- on love, death, identity, the body -- I'll Take You There is a portrait of a young woman surprised to discover strength in simply enduring. It is a thought-provoking meditation on the existential questions that arise in burgeoning adulthood, a tender evocation of the dignity and power of young love.
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In her bewitching 30th novel, I'll Take You There, Joyce Carol Oates returns again to neurotic female post-adolescence. The unnamed narrator attends an upstate New York university in the early 1960s. In those times of tightly prescribed femininity, she joins a sorority in a bald attempt to become part of the sisterhood of normalcy. It doesn't work. She reads philosophy, she works for a living, she's asexual, she's an orphan, she's a Jew: "I was a freak in the midst of their stunning, stampeding, blazing female normality." Booted from the sorority, she falls hard for a thirtyish black philosophy student who seems to her to live on a higher plane than the rest of humanity. In the final section, she is called west to the deathbed of someone she thought was lost to her forever. Oates brings together some of her strongest trademark qualities: She writes her character's life as though it were a fairy tale. She sells her material, bringing dramatic tension to the very first page: "They would claim I destroyed Mrs. Thayer.... Yet others would claim that Mrs. Thayer destroyed me." And she writes with tender care about the intellectual life of her young protagonist. Some find Oates's obsession with nascent womanhood claustrophobic, but in this heroine she finds a vein of integrity and intellectual probity peculiar to those who are not quite adult. Most writers treat college life as comedy or romance. Oates, on the other hand, seriously explores an age when we are most terribly ourselves. She seems to find something deeply human and pleasingly dramatic in this time wedged between childhood and adulthood. --Claire DedererAbout the Author:
Award-winning author, Joyce Carol Oates was born in 1938 and grew up in upstate New York.While a scholarship student at Syracuse University, she won the coveted Mademoiselle fiction contest. She graduated as valedictorian, then earned an M.A. at the University of Wisconsin.In 1968, she began teaching at the University of Windsor.In 1978, she moved to New Jersey to teach creative writing at Princeton University, where she is now the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities.A prolific writer, Joyce Carol Oates has produced some of the most controversial, and lasting, fiction of our time.Her novel, them, set in racially volatile 1960s Detroit, won the 1970 National Book Award. Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart focused on an interracial teenage romance. Black Water, a narrative based on the Kennedy-Chappaquiddick scandal, garnered a Pulitzer Prize nomination, and her national bestseller Blonde, an epic work on American icon Marilyn Monroe, became a National Book Award Finalist. Although Joyce Carol Oates has called herself, "a serious writer, as distinct from entertainers or propagandists," her novels have enthralled a wide audience, and We Were the Mulvaneys earned the #1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list.
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