The Between by Tananarive Due (Review by Stacey Lorenson)
2 min read
The Between, originally published in 1995, is being re-released this year. The author, Tananarive Due, has included a very interesting and thought-provoking preface that chronicles her career as a screenwriter, award-winning author, and professor at UCLA while giving social context to the development of the protagonist, Hilton James, and the antagonist, racism, which also represents the horror element of the story.
The Between is a fast-paced, riveting, psychological thriller that humanizes the traumatic effects of generational trauma and racism in America with a unique meta-physical, psychological-horror prose. The Between questions the margins between life and death and parallels this concept with a middle-class black American family attempting to thrive professionally and personally while continuously striving to bridge the gap between the American Ideal and black American reality.
The protagonist, Hilton James, survives a near-death childhood experience that haunts him throughout his adult life. Hilton runs a successful non-profit inner-city, drug-rehab program. Dede, Hilton’s wife, is the only African American judge in Dade County, Florida. When Dede begins to receive threatening, racist hate mail from an anonymous assailant, it triggers Hilton’s unresolved trauma, which results in a psychotic unraveling he struggles to manage and make sense of. Due goes beyond the ‘strong black woman’ stereotype, allowing Dede’s character to manifest vulnerability during the family’s verbal terrorization. Hilton’s wife holds the family together with love, patience, and loyalty, while she endures her beloved husband’s struggle. The author portrays’ s corrupted innocence through the children’s characters Jamil and Keesha. Jamil, age 7, attempts to make sense of his world as he becomes newly indoctrinated into the worlds reality, his character representing purity tainted by racism and prejudice. Keesha, age 12, observes her parents struggle in dealing with Hilton’s mental breakdown and absorbs the conflict while trying to make sense of it all, her character representing hope and repair of her parents’ dissolving relationship.
I loved this novel. Due stepped beyond the stereotypical gang and drug infested neighborhood scenario so often portrayed in novels featuring black Americans and introduced us to an average upper-middle class black American family living in suburbia. The themes of racism, generational trauma, and family loyalty, were approached with intense emotional sensitivity, endowed by each of Due’s characters, giving the novel a weight and depth that the reader can immerse themselves in. Tananarive Due is a gifted writer and The Between is a spellbinding novel readers will be sure to enjoy.