Monday, August 9, 2021

An American Marriage

An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones

I got the good fortune of hearing Tayari Jones speak on her book tour before actually reading this book. 

It's a heart-breaking story, for sure...about a married couple--Roy and Celestial--whose relationship transforms when the husband is unfairly charged for rape and imprisoned. 

A character-driven story, the novel also examines what happens when one person is imprisoned and how everything changes after that. 

Neither of the characters are particularly likable. In fact, I found both of them to be annoying at times. But Jones still manages to create sympathy for both parts of the couple. 

Beautiful writing. A truly sad book and reflection on the complexities of being Black in America.

Island of Lost Girls

Island of Lost Girls, by Jennifer McMahon

I picked this up in a Little Free Library, and it sounded intriguing. Ultimately, though, I found the characters to be a bit unreliable (especially the main character, Rhonda), and as the "mystery" played out, it didn't make much sense to me. 

Black Like Me

Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin 

Our priest, who is a highly well-read 90-year-old, mentioned Black Like Me in his (Zoom) homily earlier this year. It prompted me to pick up this book again.

I originally read it in high school, and I've never forgotten this book. It was one of a few books, including The Autobiography of Malcolm X, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Bluest Eye, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, that I read in high school and that formed my thoughts about racism.

John Howard Griffin was a white man who wanted to witness racism in the only way he could experience it: as a Black man. He used medication to darken his skin and traveled through the south as an undercover observer. When news of his investigation leaked out, he and his family were targets of what he called a "dirty bath" of hatred. He ended up moving his family to Mexico to escape the threats, and his parents went into exile too.

Black Like Me is definitely dated now. A white man donning what we now know as "blackface" would be frowned on. Black people do not need white saviors. But in the late 1950s, this book was revolutionary. And it opened the minds of many middle-class whites, who had no idea of how horrible and pervasive racism was, especially in the American South.