Jodi Picoult’s Small Great Things

I learned of the book Small Great Things from a black woman perusing a local Barnes & Noble a couple of years ago. She was holding it, planning to buy it because of the good things she’d heard. Other readers she spoke with seemed impressed by the author’s ability to discuss black hair even though she—a white woman—likely had no personal experience with the idea. I forgot about this conversation until I noticed the paperback in Target a few weeks ago. While I had my doubts about the book—writing race and racism isn’t any easy thing—I was now curious enough to give it a chance. It didn’t take long for me to realize that, for me, this wasn’t just a book about a black nurse facing discrimination, but a prime example of the reasons black readers are often skeptical of black stories penned by white authors. I had my doubts about Jodi Picoult’s ability to write a black character’s experience

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Rabbit: The Autobiography of Ms. Pat

Rabbit is a book I definitely recommend. I don’t think I’ve ever read a story like this one. I mean, I’ve certainly read similar ones, but this one seemed so packed with struggle and unbelievable incidents that it could’ve easily been fiction. The facts of the story are heavy, to say the least, but the light, fast-paced approach to the writing had the effect of making the story feel normal. I only wish I walked away with a better feel for who Ms. Pat is, her personality, her sense of humor. I didn’t know who Ms. Pat was before reading Rabbit, so I had never seen her stand-up. I had never seen her or heard her speak. So, I was disappointed and a little confused when I didn’t walking away thinking of Ms. Pat as funny. I mean, there were some moments, but overall, I didn’t really understand why comedy became her career. So, I went searching and one interview was

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Grief and remembrance are not sacrificed to the false gods of propriety and decorum but released into the air like primal music, channeled through the congregation in a collective discharge of pain.

~ From The Quiet Game, Greg Iles

 

I really only have one thought about Greg Iles’ The Quiet Game. It’s a thought I vaguely remember having while reading the Natchez Burning Trilogy. These stories always start with the death of black people, but end with these deaths being little more than a footnote. Sure details of their demise are woven into the twists and turns of the plot, but whiteness remains central. Then again, maybe that’s the point. Maybe Natchez, Mississippi is like most places in this country where the sudden and tragic deaths of black people are background noise to the interests of the majority.

Sing, Unburied, Sing: An “About Halfway” Review

Jesmyn Ward is a stunning writer. I learned this several months ago when I finally read her first National Award Winning novel, Salvage the Bones. It’s difficult to refrain from feeling when you read her detailed descriptions. And it’s important that you do everything you can to feel, completely. It’s the only way to attempt to know these characters and understand their plight. The first scene of this book was no different. I physically looked away from the page at this moment, only five pages in: I pull. The goat is inside out. Slime and smell everywhere, something musty and sharp, like a man who ain’t took a bath in some days. The skin peels off like a banana. It surprises me every time, how easy it comes away once you pull. The language she uses isn’t necessarily spectacular in any way, but the way she commands these otherwise simple words, makes you see the scene. In this case, a

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