Understand this

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Morrow, 1994 - Social Science - 271 pages
1 Review
"Powerful", "affecting", "intimate", "provocative", Understand This by Jervey Tervalon is already being acclaimed as one of the most promising debuts in contemporary American fiction. It is a tapestry whose main thread is the love between Francois and Margot. Seniors at Bolt High, on the surface they have bright futures: Francois is a talented young athlete, while Margot's brains and looks promise to take her far from South Central L.A. But something is holding Francois back. The pull of the street inexorably derails him into a life of tragic compromise. Margot, despite her love for him, refuses to give up her dreams. She will go to UC Santa Cruz and have a different life. But the novel is about more than Francois and Margot. It is also about Ann, Francois' hardworking mother, and about Michaels, the teacher at Bolt High at the end of his rope. It is about Rika, the murderous beauty who raises havoc in the lives she touches, and about Sally, the good Samaritan for whom religion is the sole source of comfort. Understand This is about survival and doom, the hopeful and the hopeless, the saved and the damned. And throughout it is written with unsentimental affection and even humor. Tervalon paints a community in turmoil. Shunning sensationalism, he refuses to exploit a neighborhood that has been drawn again and again in black and white and with the color of freshly spilled blood. Rather, he gives us a multilayered picture of a place where, in spite of everything, life goes on. While Tervalon gives us the gritty Los Angeles of gangs, guns, split-second death, and drugpeddling, he also shows us characters struggling for integrity and self-respect. What is striking here is that although thisworld is adjacent to the capital of fantasy and dreams, it is a million miles away.

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User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

Drugs batter a black L.A. neighborhood observed by eight different narrators, ranging from dealers to do-gooders: an often eloquent first novel. It opens with a young dealer being shot dead by his ... Read full review

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User Review  - altima313 - LibraryThing

I was struggling to finish this book. Only because I read "Dead Above Ground" and it's sequel "Lita" first, I wanted to go back and read his debut novel. Tervlon has definately grown as a writer. It ... Read full review


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About the author (1994)

Jervey Tervalon is an award winning poet, screenwriter and dramatist. His debut novel Understand This, won the 1994 New Voices Award from the Quality Paperback Book Club. He has contributed to The Los Angeles Times, Details and other publications. He lives in California with his wife and child and teaches creative writing at California State University at Los Angeles.

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