Brass Ankle Blues

A Novel

Brass Ankle Blues

"When I was seven I told my father that I wanted to grow up to be invisible."

As a young woman of mixed race, Nellie Kincaid is about to encounter the strange, unsettling summer of her fifteenth year. Reeling from the recent separation of her parents, Nellie finds herself traveling to the family's lake house with only her father and her estranged cousin, leaving behind the life and the mother she is trying to forget.

As the summer progresses, Nellie will have to define herself, navigating the twists and turns of first love. At the same time, her family is becoming more and more divided by the day. Does her newfound identity require her to distance herself from those she loves, or will it draw her closer?
  • Touchstone | 
  • 304 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743296588 | 
  • February 2007
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Reading Group Guide

Touchstone Reading Group Guide
Brass Ankle Blues
By Rachel Harper

Book Summary:
Brass Ankle Blues is the story of Nellie Kincaid, a fifteen year-old girl of mixed-race heritage dealing with the recent separation of her parents, who have been married for twenty years. She and her father, a professor of Afro-American Literature, are traveling from their home in Boston to their summer house in rural Minnesota, which is home to most of her mother's relatives. Normally an annual summer trip, this year is filled with new tensions, being the first visit since her parents announced their separation, and Nellie's first time traveling anywhere without her entire family unit. Accompanying them is Nellie's first cousin Jess, a troubled white girl from Virginia, who hasn't seen any of her relatives, including her own father (Nellie's uncle) since she was a child.
Throughout the travels of one intense summer, as she deals with the complexities of first love and shifting family loyalties, Nellie moves towards a definition of self that encompasses all aspects of her almost paradoxical, yet truly American, identity. As Nellie struggles to define herself racially, she also tries to place herself in the framework of her complex, and often secretive, extended family, as the lines of kinship that once seemed so clear are becoming more obscure with each passing day. It is a novel focused on the adolescent search for autonomy, but it is also about see more

About the Author

Rachel M. Harper
Photo Credit:

Rachel M. Harper

Rachel M. Harper, a graduate of Brown University, has been published in Chicago Review, African American Review, and the anthology Mending the World: Stories of Family by Contemporary Black Writers. She lives in California.