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The Itch: A Novel    by Benilde Little order for
by Benilde Little
Order:  USA  Can
Scribner, 1999 (1998)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by G. Hall

One of the many joys of reading lies in finding a totally new author, and Benilde Little was one of these discoveries for me. Little is a former magazine writer with one very popular previous book (Good Hair) to her name. For someone like me who has lived a mostly middle-class white American existence, her new book was a fascinating look into the world of affluent, well-educated upperly-mobile African-Americans. These self-described 'Buppies' (black urban professionals) are the first generation to have grown up after the civil rights struggles and to experience financial prosperity as lawyers, bankers and corporate tycoons. However, they realize they are 'cultural schizophrenics', trying to succeed in a still mostly white business world while also retaining their black identities.

All this however merely paints an interesting backdrop for The Itch which is a very entertaining story of two old school friends, Abra Dixon and Natasha Coleman, their lives and loves. Abra and Natasha are in their early 30's and partners in a company developing scripts for TV and the movies. When the novel opens, Abra is happily married to Cullen while Natasha has almost given up her search for the right man. Both are endearing and witty characters, and it was a pleasure to spend time reading about their successes, and trials and tribulations. The title refers to all the problems and pain that arise when the men in their lives have to 'scratch that itch' and stray outside their primary relationships.

The book is poignant, but not bitter, and it hits home. It is written from the perspectives of both women plus Cullen, the main man in Natasha's life and several of the more minor characters. This technique really makes the characters three-dimensional. While The Itch may not be great literature, it is very enjoyable and makes many good points about life. I will definitely look for other books by Benilde Little.

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