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With Third Girl from the Left Southgate brings her acute vision and emotional scope to a larger canvas This enormously entertaining yet serious novel tells a story of African American women struggling against all odds to express what lies deepest in their hearts Like Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay or E L Doctorow’s Ragtime it ranges freely through time fact and fiction to weave an enthralling story about history and art and their place in the lives of three women “My mother believed in the power of movies and the people in them to change a life to change her life” So explains Tamara daughter of Angela granddaughter of Mildred — the three women whose lives are portrayed in stunning detail in this ambitious novel spanning three generations of one family Tulsa Oklahoma in 1970 is not a place a smart black girl wants to linger For Angela twenty years old and beautiful the stifling conformity is unbearable She heads to Los Angeles just as blaxploitation movies are pouring money into the studios and lands a few bit parts before an unplanned pregnancy derails her plans for stardom For Mildred movies have always been a blessed diversion in a life marked by the legacy of the 1921 Tulsa race riots But after Angela leaves Tulsa following a bitter fight the distance between them grows into a breach that remains for years It falls to Tamara a budding documentarian — raised in LA by Angela as though they have no family no history — to help mother and grandmother confront all that has been silenced and left unsaid in their livesA bold beautifully written and deeply involving novel Third Girl from the Left deftly examines the pull of the movies the power of desire and the bonds of family in a uintessentially American story

10 thoughts on “Third Girl from the Left

  1. says:

    Jar of Death Pick #3445 StarsA uick Warning The word dyke is used several times throughout this bookJune is ueer Lit month but I hadn't planned on reading any ueer books simply because I wasn't in the mood to read any of the books I own So imagine my surprise when I'm a couple chapters in to this and I discover that one of the main characters a black woman is Bisexual Sometimes the universe gives you just what you need Third Girl from the Left is such a layered and beautifully written story This book is 15 years old and yet its still topical I bought this book because I heard it was about Blaxploitation films but its about so much I didn't read the back cover before I started reading it so I was super shocked when the 1921 Tulsa race riots were a setting for part of this book In my adult years I have become so fascinated with the Tulsa race riots and I can never understand how such an horrific event has been mostly forgotten by history I mean I know that A Lot of horrific stuff has happened to usblack people throughout history but the Tulsa race riots seem to be on another level and it just boggles my mind to think that we can go through our lives without knowing about this Basically research The Tulsa race riots people Back to the book reviewI really feel in love with Third Girl from the Left I feel like I needed to read this book This book had so much heart I almost gave it 5 stars but I deduced half a star because I felt like one of the main characters Tamara wasn't as interesting as the other two Angela and Mildred and the last part of the book was about her Had we not had Tamara's pov then this would have been a perfect book A Must Read

  2. says:

    This is the third Martha Southgate book I've readand I can honestly say she is a fresh voice in Contemporary Black American literature She has a way of telling the story that on the surface seems like it would be a familiar tale of class and race but changing it to be from a totally different perspective For that we are richer because she adds a freshness to the dialogFall of Rome had a different take on academic diversity and who doesdoesn't support it while The Taste of Salt showed a different perspective on cultural isolation in the professional world and intellectual isolation from familyThrow out the dust jacket I have no idea what book the publisher was describingbecause Third Girl from the Left is as much about Blaxploitation films as Taste of Salt was about Marine Biology The film industry was just a supporting character to illustrate the role of women in cinema and it's effects over the yearsThe jewel of this book lies in the complexities of the relationships formed by the women in this book The love the devotion the dreams the heartbreak the desire to go fareven when you have no idea how far far isMy favorite of the three so farsimply because this book I could feel I could see all these women They were incredibly life like

  3. says:

    I read this book while listening to the dirtbomb's dangerous magical noise which was a transporting experience I dug this book alot Even though there are some weaknesses the strengths were enough to win me over Southgate has an ability to capture some of the essential moments in black women's lives and make them feel totally real This capacity alone took the book very far I also think her other great strength was her accurate descriptions of sex and desire When she would describe her characters' feelings and thoughts before during and after sex I knew what she was talking about not Wilt Chamberlin though I feel like it's a skill to make those scenes not clunky or stiff but fluid and recognizable to readers as something we've all experienced SO those things were awesome along with the historical stuff on Tulsa LA in the 70's and Jacob Lawrence who is one of my heroes But I had trouble with the 3rd person omniscient narrator When it was just Angela it was great I could even handle a couple of the other characters but when she would switch into the men's heads and then skip over to someone else and then back to the female characters it just took me out of it I feel like it would of been stronger to keep it to the 3 central figures I also felt like the writing kind of fell apart in the last section that the meat was really the Angela section and I don't know how to remedy that but it made me miss that writing even when I was still reading the book Overall though I thought Southgate did a great job I am always so happy when someone writes about the lives of black women especially with the kind of detail and care that Southgate uses

  4. says:

    It really doesn't get any better than Martha Southgate I loved The Fall of Rome can't even come up with a word to describe how much I love Third Girl from the Left

  5. says:

    I read this for a book club it's probably not something that I would have picked up on my own to be honest but I'm glad it was a book club selectionIt had mixed reviews in book club not enough difference in voice not enough connection between reader and narrator but I loved the character arc that spanned not one character but three Mildred has dreams but no real hope of realising them; to achieve her dreams Angela must turn her back on everything she knows; Tamara although she still has the odds stacked against her has hopes of realising her dreams and taking her career further than her mother or her grandmotherThe writing runs the gamut from forced to evocative but overall the book felt like a slice out of a life or rather a set of lives that I'll never be able to fully understandLastly I can only thank the author for this gem Angela frowned What's a dyke?Sheila stretched A dyke is a big mannish woman who hates men and only sleeps with other big mannish women Not like us We just do it for fun She looked at Angela intently Wanna do it again? page 44

  6. says:

    Third Girl From the Left follows three generations of African American women; Angie her mother Mildred and Angie's daughter Tamara The protagonist Angie feels suffocated in her small Tulsa town and runs away to Los Angeles to become an actress She struggles to find her way in a new and exotic town that doesn't live up to her child hood fantasies of fame and fortune Mildred grew up in a conservative era which provides for an often tumultuous relationship with her daughter And Tamara desperately searches for the secrets of her family's pastThis family saga takes you on a historical journey from the 1921 Tulsa race riots to the blaxploitation of the 1970's film industry It masterfully weaves the reader through the coming of age of sorts of an entire family There is an underlying lesbian sub plot regarding Angie's relationship with Sheila but it doesn't overshadow the main story line Brilliantly crafted novel of a family searching for themselves and for each other

  7. says:

    I really enjoyed parts of this and other parts were so so hence the three stars I also read it in fits and starts which didn't help It was great to read a story about different generations of black women that touched on their hopes fears and dreams while also dealing with the issue of knowing and appreciating one's roots This is the third book by Martha Southgate that I've read and it's pretty obvious she likes to write her books from the different perspectives of her characters While I enjoy that approach sometimes it falls flat depending on whose voice it is For instance even though I sympathized with Mildred and liked her reading the story from her perspective wasn't really satisfying I felt Angela's voice was the best even though I didn't particularly like her character Tamara's voice sort of tied everything together despite her being the youngest and dealing with the present

  8. says:

    A surprisingly great book I picked up at the bargain section of Half Price books I was intrigued by the description all about a woman who was an extra in some of the blaxplotation films of the 70s her mother who was involved in the Tulsa Race Riot and her daughter who became a filmmaker Hard to put down and a great story about the power of family and the movies

  9. says:

    I've never read any of Southgate's work but this was a powerful story that is interwoven through three generations of women and covers race sexuality class and the broken heart

  10. says:

    This is my favorite novel by Martha Southgate One of the many things I like about Ms Southgate’s work generally is that it often surprises me It brings a gravitas and diversity to its subjects and characters that is subtle and I don’t see coming a mile away That was never truer than in this wonderful book “Third Girl from the Left” is the story of women – three of them all of them black and American These women are family They are in each other’s lives for better or worse so they love and treat each other accordingly Their stories are told in three parts each character a focal point of view in that section It begins with Angela at a time when she is on the brink of leaving her home in Tulsa OK for Hollywood to become an actress in the height of Blaxploitation films Angela is beautiful strong willed bewildering messy and wildly self centered Basically she’s fascinating I identified with this section perhaps than other sections of the book because I grew up in this era So it was also here that I laughed out loud the most and could see everything happen the most vividly Ms Southgate does a great job of weaving real people and real popular culture into the story in ways that are often imaginary but totally credible Mildred Angela’s mother dominates the second section of the book and offers for me the most poignant moments in this story Mildred than even her daughter is a woman oppressed by the weight of the times in which she lives Born at the early part of the 20th century Mildred sees too much at an early age and buries it Yet she is so bound to that trauma throughout her life that it effects every relationship she has especially the one she has with her family Tamara Angela’s daughter and Mildred’s granddaughter is revealed in the third section offering us the most contemporary character of the book and perhaps the most difficult to know Part of that I suspect is because Tamara is young when we first meet her and as she grows it is increasingly obvious she knows and understands little about the people she loves who are closest to her Her often obstructed and tentative approach to discovery was heartbreaking and conseuently than the other women in the story it was Tamara I wanted to know and hear about Crossing my fingers that the book gets pick up for a TV series so that wish might become a realityIn case you’re wondering there are many men in the body of this work all of them were haunting and extremely interesting in their own right but this was a woman’s story and I was grateful and moved by that perspective throughout This was an easy read because the characters were richly drawn the time periods and story etched with reality and there were often poetic gems in the prose I highly recommend it as well as all of Southgate’s work It never disappoints