Emma Lou was born black. Too black for her own comfort and that of her social-climbing wannabe family. Resented by those closest to her, she runs from her small hometown to Los Angeles and then to Harlem of the 1920's, seeking her identity and an escape from the pressures of the black community. She drifts from one loveless relationship to another in the search for herself and a place in a society where prejudice towards her comes not only from whites, but from her own race
This novel, associated with the Harlem Renaissance, is considered groundbreaking for its exploration of colorism and racial discrimination within the black community, where lighter skin was often favored, especially for women.