The wonderful thing about the summer is that one can read a few books just because.
I've still been on my black female literature kick (currently reading Island Beneath The Sea by Isabel Allende - so guess she's not black, but the protagonist is a Mulatto/Creole woman from Saint Domingue during the time my ancestors were on that Caribbean Island. That is for another post, I digress...) so this little coming of age book by Heidi W. Durrow is an excursion.
This book was recommended by my favorite bookseller, Nikki at Pudd N' Head Books in Webster Groves. Nikki and I talked today and we both believe this book will have critical acclaim when it comes out in paperback and is discovered by more people. I highly recommend it for the YA market and the young college students who want to understand the complexities of race from a semi-autiobiographical perspective.
The protagonist journeys from being a child of multi-cultural and multi-racial heritage. Her dad is U.S. black and her mother is from Denmark. The first thing that struck me as I read the book is how the "voice" we hear in our head of ourselves talking as a little girl is the same "voice" we hear in our heads as a young woman and older.
I could feel this girls inner turmoil as she tried to figure out this new culture, she was pretty much raised in Denmark and spoke Danish until her mother thrust her in a very different America in the early 1980s.
The other thing that struck me about the story was the confusion the mother must have felt about the decidedly American obsession with race and classifications. She wrote in her many journals about how you were just "you" in Europe and that it was not unusual for Danish women to date black military men. It was just a sense of freedom from the chokehold of centuries old racial constructs that allowed the young couple to just be.
The tragedy of the book and what happened to the mother are in some ways the fault of this racial obsession in a place that had to be very confusing. I would never do what she did, but I could understand her angst and desire to protect her children.
One thing that appealed to me about the book is that the people who "spoke" did so from the first person, as if I was sitting down with them, sipping a cup of coffee, and listening to their version of the "event." It was also a reminder that the events of one's live could literally change on one decision, one moment, and there will be years spent trying to figure out what happened.
This book is a must-read for anyone of any ethnic origin, but especially for those who are mixed-race, mixed-culture, or friends of someone who shares heritage in multiple worlds.
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