Touchstone Reading Group Guide Brass Ankle Blues
By Rachel Harper Book Summary: Brass Ankle Blues
is the story of Nellie Kincaid, a fifteen year-old girl of mixed-race heritage dealing with the recent separation of her parents, who have been married for twenty years. She and her father, a professor of Afro-American Literature, are traveling from their home in Boston to their summer house in rural Minnesota, which is home to most of her mother's relatives. Normally an annual summer trip, this year is filled with new tensions, being the first visit since her parents announced their separation, and Nellie's first time traveling anywhere without her entire family unit. Accompanying them is Nellie's first cousin Jess, a troubled white girl from Virginia, who hasn't seen any of her relatives, including her own father (Nellie's uncle) since she was a child.
Throughout the travels of one intense summer, as she deals with the complexities of first love and shifting family loyalties, Nellie moves towards a definition of self that encompasses all aspects of her almost paradoxical, yet truly American, identity. As Nellie struggles to define herself racially, she also tries to place herself in the framework of her complex, and often secretive, extended family, as the lines of kinship that once seemed so clear are becoming more obscure with each passing day. It is a novel focused on the adolescent search for autonomy, but it is also about