This book was not what I thought it was going to be at all. It started almost as a superficial take on motherhood (it’s hard y’all!), but turns into this beautiful dissertation on the happenstance of life, family, and race relations in America.
What I like about this book is that the characters are flawed in very real ways, weaknesses that we can see in ourselves if we really look closely. Rebecca, the protagonist, is an optimist, which sometimes prevents her from seeing the truth; she acts selfishly at times, yet she does so out of love; she tries not to see herself as a “White hero”, but she takes secret pride and shame from her role as one. It also speaks a lot of truth about race relations in America: some scenes were uncomfortable, yet were so real they took me back to moments when I realized a person of color was being treated differently that I was, a white female.
This is not a plot-driven novel, but I enjoyed every moment reading it as the characters were so well developed I kept reading to see if they came out okay. Alam does a brilliant job of writing about women, I don’t think I could describe breast-feeding as accurately as he writes, and I have actually breast-fed! I would recommend this novel to anyone interested in motherhood, family, adoption, and American race relations.
That Kind of Mother by Rumaan Alam
Publication date: May 8, 2018
I read this as: Edelweiss ARC
“It turns out that I watch too much television. I was expecting a scientist to come and testify about DNA. I was looking for a pair of good-looking detectives to burst into the courtroom at the last minute, whispering something urgent to the prosecutor. Everyone would see that this was a big mistake, a major misunderstanding. We would all be shaken but appeased. I fully believed that I would leave the courtroom with my husband beside me. Secure in our home we would tell people how no black man is really safe in America.” – Celestial, An American Marriage
A young black man is accused of a terrible crime in Louisiana. Despite both his and his wife’s testimony that they were together, and no evidence, he is convicted and given a 12 year sentence. What happens after and because of this injustice is an exploration in how lives and love go on after being handed the worst cards possible. Black people in America are all too familiar with these circumstances.
I can see why this was the latest pick for Oprah’s book club, it was beautifully written and compelling, much of it was a collection of letters between Roy and Celestial, the husband and wife of the titular “Marriage”. Although the story centers around their relationship, many marriages comprise this story. Spanning unions with casual betrayals to those with the fiercest loyalty imaginable, they all sought to establish their own as the ultimate display of marital union, and who’s to say they aren’t each correct? If we are honest can we say that relationships are largely impacted by luck and timing? Would the strongest marriage stand a terrible blow? Could a flimsy union survive by luck of the draw?
After watching 13th last year I became very aware of how our justice system is tilted against African-Americans. This book brought to light what it’s like to walk in their shoes, being treated like less than human, the years lost and dreams dashed all for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. This sad story was given a lot of grace and honesty, I think it’s a very important book for this time and this country.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Published on: January 29, 2018
I read this as: a library book