In the High Peaks

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Few Words about Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

I read Small Great Things during the final week of 2016, when I felt that lame-duckness I've described in a previous post. I tore into it because I had heard from people I respect that it was well worth my time. And I agree it was. But did I ever find, as I was reading the novel and afterward, that I desperately wanted to discuss it with someone or lots of people who'd read it.

For me, Small Great Things was enormously provocative. It provoked me to disgust at the views and actions of the white supremacist father of a newborn. (I almost had to abandon the novel, but I pushed on due to the advice of people I know to just stick with it.) This proved to be a good thing. I was provoked to anger at the careless speech of the white, so-called liberal attorney, Kennedy who represented the African-American nurse in the newborn unit. (Kennedy actually believed her statement "I'm colorblind." I was provoked by the actions and non-actions of the African-American nurse who had worked for 20 solid years in the newborn unit at a major hospital and who was almost willing to give up the fight. **I believe the novel's provocations were its best feature--it made me confront my own feelings and beliefs and attitudes. And I was left speechless, because I had nobody with whom to talk about it.

Picoult noted in her acknowledgements that she had wanted for decades to write about racism in America. And finally the time had seemed right for her to do it. I think she succeeded in this effort, not so much for writing  a flawless novel about racism, but because she raised countless discussion issues for every white and black American to really think about.

I highly recommend that you and some friends read this novel and discuss it together.

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