Born to a Danish mother and an African American G.I. father, and raised in Europe, Rachel has never thought of herself as black or white. But when a family tragedy sends her to Portland to live with her grandmother in a predominantly African American community, 11-year-old Rachel suddenly finds herself defined by her race. Though her grandmother is loving and provides Rachel with more stability than she's ever had in her life, she doesn't understand why her black grandchild would sing the Danish words to Christmas carols under her breath at church or crave pastries made with marzipan.
As Rachel grows up, she tries to make sense of her racial identity - why do strangers pay so much attention to her eyes and hair? Why do they always ask "what she is?" She feels forced to abandon some parts of her identity, to question how she fits in, and eventually, to face difficult truths about her family.
Though Durrow's book is primarily a coming of age story, and an exploration of racial identity, there is also a mystery at its core. What were the circumstances surrounding Rachel's move to her grandmother's house? What really happened to the rest of her family? Durrow allows the story to unfold through the perspective of multiple characters, culminating in a twist ending. A lyrical and thought-provoking debut.