BOOKS: FINALLY HAVING THEIR SAY

THEY ARE NO LONGER INVISIBLE WOMEN. BUT BEING MIDDLE CLASS, FEMALE AND BLACK STILL ISN'T EASY

Too often, middle-class women of color are either airbrushed from America's literary canvas or painted with hackneyed strokes. While a smattering of books have attempted to redress this problem, among them Jill Nelson's 1993 memoir, Volunteer Slavery, the lives of these women beg for further elaboration. Happily, Nelson's new memoir, Straight, No Chaser (Putnam; 225 pages; $23.95), and Gwendolyn M. Parker's Trespassing (Houghton Mifflin; 209 pages; $23) provide some of the missing detail.

Though both writers were raised in black middle-class communities by parents who emphasized education and achievement, the sensibilities and sensitivities that inform their respective journeys are markedly different....

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