Angel of Harlem by Kuwana Haulsey One World/Ballantine, September 2004 $19.95, ISBN 0-375-50870-8
The fictionalized story of Dr. May Chinn, the first black female physician in New York City, could have been a dry chronicle of a studious young woman who overcomes prejudice and penury to become a pioneer in medicine.
There is nothing dry about this version of May's story. Thanks to author Kuwana Haulsey's vividly textured novel, this vibrant, intelligent and beautiful woman virtually leaps off the page, engaging the reader with the tears, anger, love and laughter of a triumphant spirit.
May Chinn is our mother, our grandmother, our aunt. She is every strong black woman who ever struggled against overwhelming odds to win an often-bitter victory.
Born in Harlem in the 1920s, May is unwilling to settle for birthing babies and keeping house. Her father, a former slave and embittered alcoholic, is embarrassed by a daughter who wants to attend college. Such things are for men, he rails. He stops speaking to May and refuses to contribute a dime to her education. Her mother works four jobs to help pay for her daughter's schooling.
This story is told against the backdrop...