by Jodi Picoult
Published October 11th 2016
“How incredibly easy it is to hide behind white skin, I think, looking at these probable supremacists. The benefit of the doubt is in your favor. You’re not suspicious. The few black faces in the room stand out in harsh counterpoint.”
First of all let me just say how angry I was throughout this book. I don’t think a book has ever made me feel as angry as this one did and it was because the author made you feel everything the characters were feeling. Does that make sense? The way the characters expressed their views was done in such a way that it sticks with you as the reader. To be honest, I am still angry. This is my first book by Jodi Picoult and I think she did an amazing job with this one and I wish there is a way you can make a book mandatory to every adult in the world. We all need to stop ignoring the fact that this is still happening. But I don’t think its ignorance so much as thinking that the racism that was there then is not there now and that should mean whatever is there now is not a big deal.
“There is no such thing as a fact. There is only how you saw the fact, in a given moment. How you reported the fact. How your brain processed that fact. There is no extrication of the storyteller from the story.”
Meet Ruth Jefferson, who has worked in Connecticut in labor and delivery as a nurse and has twenty years’ experience under her belt. She has worked hard to get to where she is and prides herself in making it work for herself and her son. But then misfortune comes her way when she is assigned to perform routine checkups on a newborn whose parents are white supremacists. They make it clear they do not want an African American touching their baby and so a different nurse is assigned to them. The problem comes when she is left with the baby and she hesitates before helping him when he starts to going into cardiac distress. She has orders not to touch the baby but she is the only one there. What should she do?
“Admitting that racism has played a part in our success means admitting that the American dream isn’t quite so accessible to all.”
The book follows the legal proceedings that come after the unfortunate circumstance when Ruth is blamed by the parents of the baby for their misfortune. They could have blamed the hospital or any of the other medical staff around but they blamed her. This makes her wonder if they would have sued her if she was not black. I have watched documentaries on reformed white supremacists and I think that’s why I could just feel that hate seeping through the words from Turk and his wife. What made me wish-washy about the book was the ending which I felt was not settling? Too many unanswered questions but I think there will be a second book.
This book will make some people very mad because it is putting it out there that white people are privileged. They don’t like to hear that but a fact is a fact, they get away with a lot of things. I love that the author took her time with this book, years of feeling like it is not her place to talk on this subject. The voice is not for one particular group but for anyone who is strong enough to bring it up and she finally did. It will also annoy some people who feel that the story was not told by the right person. Others will feel that it was an opportunistic move by the author and publishers. What I think matters is that the story has been told and it will reach a different group of people that the usual who pay attention to it.
“What if the puzzle of the world was a shape you didn’t fit into? And the only way to survive was to mutilate yourself, carve away your corners, sand yourself down, modify yourself to fit? How come we haven’t been able to change the puzzle instead?”
This is a delicate subject to many people, some want to believe it does not exist, some live with it every single day and others act as the instigators whether they are aware of it or not. I have been an inbetweener. I know it exists but since it doesn’t affect me, I am blind to it or rather I don’t talk much about it. I am a Kenyan and where I am, racism is the last thing in our mind. We have other problems we deal with on a daily basis such as ethnic divide and feminism. I only notice racism when I mention my boyfriend is white and some of my ‘friends’ say how I am such a traitor for dating a white man. I notice racism when I am in white country like when my sister and I were stopped on the street where she has bought an apartment by a white man who asked if we were the cleaning ladies going to clean his house.
To be honest, such remarks never bother me, they mostly make me feel sorry for the people and the fact that they cannot see beyond a skin color. I don’t believe in dwelling on someone else’s inability to separate from hate. These people will always exist. Racists, people against you because of your gender, people against you because of your religion, black people against you because of how dark you are, people against you because of you. They will always be there regardless but what drives them is seeing how much they affect you. I genuinely laugh at them and their sorry lives, but this book made me think. What if I lived in a country where I was a minority? What if I lived where my skin color stood out more than I am used to it sticking out? What if I was constantly being defined/categorized because of my skin color? Then maybe it would change the way I viewed it all and my feeling towards it all.
As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie had said in her book Americanah:
“Maybe it’s time to just scrap the word “racist.” Find something new. Like Racial Disorder Syndrome. And we could have different categories for sufferers of this syndrome: mild, medium, and acute.” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Maybe that is when we will see that it does exist than merely thinking that it doesn’t because it’s not as bad as it used to be. Yes it has changed but there are still people who judge people based on their skin color and I feel like the audience Jodi Picoult has is different form the one that is always bombarded by the topic on race. This will definitely help in spreading the conversation.
“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” – Dr. Martin Luther King
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