A unique and sometimes frightening story with a surprising ending, this is another tale of the lengths to which people of color will go to pass for white to gain the benefits of whiteness. For one New England family this has succeeded quite well by sending a too dark daughter back South to live with relatives and never allowing her to come to the town where the rest of the family lives. It fails when a too dark child is born and the parents keep her with them. It is also a tale of gender identity and how rape and abuse can destroy and deform and of resilience in the face of endless obstacles. This is not an ordinary novel.
One Book a Week-16, “The Promise”, Damon Galgut
Winner of the 2021 Booker Prize, this novel illustrates the dismal consequences of colonialism and racism. South Africa before and after apartheid comes alive in this story about an Afrikaner family whose matriarch dies young enough to leave her husband with three children, only one of whom is old enough to be on his own. In her dying, she returns to her Jewish roots much to the horror of her husband and many others. Her youngest daughter overhears her dying wish which her husband promises to fulfill even though he has no intention of doing so. This remains an underlying thread, the promise which this daughter never forgets.
The difficult, often prejudiced and unequal, relations between the races underpins the actions of most of the characters, leading a few to greater humanity and kindness, but most into lives of loss, disappointment, and anger.
One Book a Week-11: The Vanishing Half, Brit Bennett
This unusual novel features identical twin sisters, inseparable as children, living in a small town in rural Louisiana. The town’s founder, a light skinned Black man, insisted on maintaining a certain character for the town–only light skinned Black people should live there. At sixteen the sisters run away to New Orleans where they ultimately choose diametrically opposed lives, one passing as white, marrying a wealthy white man who knows nothing of her true past. In spite of the deception and lies, years later their lives become intertwined in unexpected ways. The novel not only addresses themes of race but also sexual identity and who we are as individuals and a country.
Sitting in the Children’s Museum,
trying to make time fly faster,
waiting on my daughter and grandson.
Still shocked and excessively annoyed:
This is New Mexico and
Laguna Pueblo is just down the road
more or less
and I can’t find a single Silko
book except Ceremony which
I already own and have
What’s the matter with people?
They don’t know a thing about
their own heritage except maybe
turquoise and Kachina dolls
probably made in China.
Then there’s me:
not a drop of Indian blood I know of,
Indian fry bread
The xeroscape garden between me and
the dinosaurs beckons.
If I leave this seat and
my grandson’s and daughter’s
stuff gets stolen…
I photograph myself in the distortion mirrors,
I read Yo, a book about family truth
if there is such a thing,
and think about how much
my sister hates me.