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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Davenports, the debut novel by Krystal Marquis, is first in a planned series of historical novels set in Black high society in early 20th century Chicago. The first book introduces readers to the Davenport family, loosely based on the real-life Patterson family, the first African Americans to own an automobile company. The story is told in alternating third-person chapters about four characters: Olivia, the eldest daughter, is actively looking for a husband. Helen, her sister, would rather be a mechanic in the company than a wife. Ruby, Olivia's best friend is also hoping to be married as soon as possible. Amy-Rose, the Davenport family's maid, dreams of opening a hair salon for Black women. As is conventional for the romance genre, there are many stolen kisses, fantasies about kisses, and coded descriptions of arousal (hot cheeks, pressing the body against another person). Romantic intrigue includes women attempting to steal one another's suitors and a Black man mocked for having a relationship with a Black woman whose father was White. People are injured when a protest turns violent. The police beat people with clubs, and counter-protesters push and shove protesters. Young people smoke cigarettes in one scene. A woman mentions that her mother considers smoking unladylike behavior. There's very occasional use of the word "damn."
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What's the Story?
When THE DAVENPORTS begins, Olivia Davenport and her best friend Ruby, both in their late teens, are seeking husbands among the wealthy Black elite in Chicago. Olivia's sister Helen doesn't really want a husband; she'd rather become a mechanic and run her father's carriage business along with her brother. When an attractive new man comes to town, his presence shakes up the young women's lives.
Is It Any Good?
This romantic novel set in 1910 Chicago is exciting and subversively feminist. In The Davenports (a debut novel Krystal Marquis began during National Novel Writing Month), four young women defy the expectations placed on them based on their race, sex, and class. The novel follows the conventions of the romance genre, with a lot of heated kisses and crushes, but it never crosses the line into explicitly sexual material. The author does a wonderful job showing how the personal and political join in individual lives. Money, politics, professional choices, and social position all strongly influence the outcomes of the flirtations. An especially interesting touch: Although the suitors are major characters, the events of the story are told and interpreted entirely from the perspective of the young women.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the history presented in The Davenports. What do you know about wealthy Black communities of the past?
Although The Davenports is about romantic relationships, the author chose to structure the story around the four women, not their suitors. Why do you think she made that choice?
Many of the characters in the story act with great courage and others give into fear, social pressure, or despair. Can you think of a time when you or someone you know acted from courage?
- Author: Krystal Marquis
- Genre: Romance
- Topics: Activism, Brothers and Sisters, Great Girl Role Models, History
- Character Strengths: Courage, Curiosity, Perseverance
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Dial Books
- Publication date: January 31, 2023
- Number of pages: 347
- Available on: Paperback, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: March 27, 2023
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