Virgin Soul is the fictional memoir of Geniece> Hightower, an aspiring journalist undergoing a journey of self-discovery during the Black Power movement in 1960s San Francisco. Divided into four sections, each dedicated to a year of her university schooling, the novel follows Geniece’s transition from focused scholar to revolutionary panther.
While researching a story for her college newspaper, she meets Allwood, a highly intellectual activist who pulls Geniece into the rebellious world of the Black Panther Party. When he moves out of the picture, Geniece grows deeply involved in the movement and begins losing her grip on her formerly innocent self. Over time, she reveals her increasingly complex feelings toward the party and its members. The BPP causes Geniece to contemplate her values and priorities in life, raising important questions regarding the role of violence in the organization.
Judy Juanita demonstrates strong knowledge of the subject matter with her well-executed portrayals of major party members like Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, and George W. Sams Jr. With Virgin Soul, she brings up fascinating socio-political topics, such as the appearance and dress of African American women in the ’60s. However, the author tends to spell things out for the reader, resulting in a lack of romanticism that could have brought the novel’s fictional characters to life.
Despite the somewhat trite ending, Virgin Soul tells an entertaining story of a young woman’s experience with one of the most radical counterculture organizations in America’s history.
By Tess Duncan