Hot chocolate and a book – Kristin Lattany’s Breaking Away

BreakinThis week, we will be discussing Breaking Away by Kristin Lattany (2003). The book is a fictionalization of an incident that took place at the University of Pennsylvania in 1993.  The following appears on the inside of the book flaps.

Bethesda Barnes has reached a point in life where she at last feels comfortable. She loves her family despite a stormy relationship with her mother. For romance, there’s Lloyd Bounds, a devoted postal clerk. Although, cards on the table, Beth wouldn’t mind a ring. Ask Beth what part of her life is truly fulfilling and she just might answer, “my beautiful career.”

After landing a plum teaching position at an Ivy League college, Dr. Barnes focuses her energies on her students, even the obnoxious ones, encouraging them all to “always ask for more.” Though driven and dedicated, Beth is fairly detached from her faculty colleagues, well aware that she is one of the only black faces in a sea of white. Despite the disparity, she loves her job and pursues it with gusto. Until an incident on campus rocks her world– and forces her to confront society’s uglier side.

Late one night, four African American sorority sisters are called vile names and assailed with garbage. The students decide to charge the boys with assault and racial insensitivity for violating the university’s harassment code. they ask Beth to be their student faculty advisor for the case. When Beth accepts, she walks into a racially charged firestorm of heated protest and dangerous threats. It turns out that one of the boys is a skinhead who seems to have sympathizers in high places. When the case goes national, even the editorial boards of presumably liberal newspapers criticize the victims and their cause. Though some of the girls drop out of the case, and her personal life is blindsided by tragedy, Beth perseveres with the cause, believing some things are worth fighting for… especially in the name of justice.

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