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 Fiction Review   

Leaving Atlanta
By Tayari Jones
Warner Books, 2002
Hardcover, $23.95 (255 pages)
ISBN: 0-446-52830-7

Set in Atlanta, the summer of 1979, Leaving Atlanta is the coming of age story of three African-American children attending Atlanta's Oglethorpe Elementary School.

Tasha Baxter, Rodney Green, and Octavia Harrison are starting fifth grade. All summer long, they've heard whispers amongst the adults and broadcasts on local television about black children around their age being abducted and murdered. Emotions are running high and parents are desperate to protect their children.

Told in three parts, Jones offers a cross section of Atlanta society and has a cameo as a classmate. Tasha's parents are living apart. No one has used the "separated" word. She and her sister blithely believe all is well until a classmate repeats gossip overheard from her parents. At ten, Tasha spent the summer practicing her jump rope technique and obsessing about popularity. Tasha has a crush on a boy from the projects who disappears. 

Rodney Green, the class nerd, is smart but gets poor grades. Like his father before him, Rodney's father doesn't believe in sparing the rod, even going so far as to beat his son in front of the class after Rodney is caught shoplifting. Upwardly mobile, Mr. Green who owns a business expects more of his son. 

Octavia Harrison and her mother live across the street from the projects. "Sweet Pea" to her family and friends lives in terror someone will find out her mother works the eleven to seven shift. 

Leaving Atlanta is a story of innocence lost as the search goes on for an unknown killer who ultimately abducted twenty-nine children. 

Tayari Jones earned her M.F.A. at Arizona State University, where she won the 2000 Hurston/Wright Award for an excerpt from Leaving Atlanta.

Pam Kingsbury
Southern Scribe Reviews


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