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Doubleday, 1997 - Fiction - 366 pages
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Set at the height of the Harlem Renaissance, when Harlem was the hot spot of the world, the Lamberts, a black American sharecropping family from outside Jacksonville, Florida head north, enticed by the letters of their cousin Geneva. "In Harlem, " she writes, "colored folks and white people are all treated the same. We all drive around in fancy cars and wear the latest clothes...Everyone is rich..." Unbeknownst to the Lamberts, Geneva has transformed herself from rural preacher's daughter to wealthy offspring of New Orleans black elite. Light-skinned and beautiful, she has the looks, the poise and bravado to carry the deception off-and now her ambition is about to be rewarded. Lester Noble has proposed, and Geneva is about to marry into the Harlem aristocracy. Nothing can stop her now. Or so she thinks....But when the Lamberts arrive on Geneva's doorstep, it seems that her carefully orchestrated plan may go awry. Faced with a choice between her hardscrabble past and her happy future, Geneva coldly leaves her kinfolk to make their own way in a city that is as overwhelming as it is vibrant. This unforgettable novel paints a vivid portrait of Harlem in its heyday-jazz bands, bootleggers, the beautiful showgirls of the Cotton Club and the broken men and women who struggle to survive in New York's most desperate neighborhoods. A blend of fictional characters and real-life figures in the Harlem Renaissance, it's an irresistible tale of passion and envy, loyalty and betrayal, ruthless violence and redeeming love-a book that captures all of the glory, triumph and tragedy of a unique time and place in America's history.

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A re-creation of the Harlem Renaissance, Riley's novel paints a vivid portrait of that famous neighborhood in its heyday, when jazz bands, bootleggers, and the Cotton Club thrived. Read full review


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About the author (1997)

Riley is a former advertising vice-president-turned-television writer. His sitcom credits include Good Times, The Jeffersons, and Benson.

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