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First Family, by Christopher Davis

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First published by Coward-McCann, 1961
Now available through


The McKinleys have moved into an upscale, all-white suburban neighborhood in the northeastern United States in 1960—a time of ferment in the early years of the civil rights movement. The father is a university professor of philosophy; the mother, Rachel, a militant equal rights fighter; their son Scotty, prone to illness, has been raised to think of himself as a special member of the human race rather than a "Negro"; he is an adolescent dreamer and lover. Petitions are circulated; "for sale" signs go up; the single "tolerant" white family wavers, breaks, and tragedy follows.

Selected comments and review quotes:

"First Family is—and I say it without a single reservation—a beautiful piece of work...I don't know of a recent piece of fiction which has used a present and prevailing fact so simply, so sadly and so eloquently."

—Louis Untermeyer, author

"Convinced that integration will come, [Davis] questions the ingenuousness of those who believe that white and colored children can go to school together, enter one another's homes and then be barred from one another's hearts."

—Time Magazine

"Faithfully recounted in terms of everyday life, with a precise passion always fused with the object, never obtruded or doctrinaire. A sad, angry, poignant story that stays painfully in the mind."

—Manchester Guardian

"All the characters in this fine novel are beautifully the best sense of the word a sophisticated novel and painfully memorable."

—London, Sunday Times

"It is impossible to read it and to remain untouched—or unchanged."


Time Magazine's Year's Best citation:

"The likely to be surprised by the quality of this fine novel, which steadily honors prose above propaganda, whose characters are as complex as the issues that set neighbor against neighbor."

Click here to read an excerpt from the 2007 book Working Words, Creative Reading, Writing, and Teaching by Christopher Davis.