THE FULL MATILDA (Harlem Moon/ Random House) is an elegant and bittersweet novel about Matilda Housewright, who bears not-always-silent witness to the social evolution of her African American family’s near-century of domestic servitude to Washington, D.C.’s better families. Southern Methodist University professor DAVID HAYNES neatly presents the paradox of the Housewrights’ situation—the skills that enable them to build a food-service empire were born of a status not far removed from the house slaves of the previous century. Matilda is a memorable and stoic character, even as a younger generation of Housewrights is visited by the twin modern plagues of racial violence and drug abuse.

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