There is a fire raging and we have two choices: we can turn our backs, or we can try to fight it. Yes, talking about racism is hard to do, and yes, we stumble over the words—but we who are white need to have this discussion amongst ourselves. Because then, even more of us will overhear and then, I hope, the conversation will spread.
I am not a social justice educator, so I can offer advice only as someone who is still a work in progress. The first thing I can tell you is what NOT to do:. A really easy way to start to challenge implicit racism is to look at your bookshelf. Who are you reading? A really great little mnemonic device is one I stole from Kayla Reed, a Black activist on Twitter: ALLY: A lways center the impacted , L isten and learn from those who live in the oppression, L everage your privilege , Y ield the floor.
Finally, if you have time or money, consider donating to a group like Black Lives Matter, Showing Up For Racial Justice, Race Forward, or a local community group that promotes racial justice. The miracle happened on West Seventy-fourth Street, in the home where Mama worked. It was a big brownstone encircled by a wrought-iron fence, and overlooking either side of the ornate door were gargoyles, their granite faces carved from my nightmares.
Mama had been working for Sam Hallowell and his family since before my sister and I were born. You may not have recognized his name, but you would have known him the minute he said hello. He had been the unmistakable voice in the mids who announced before every show: The following program is brought to you in living color on NBC!
The doorbell beneath those gargoyles was the famously pitched three-note chime everyone associates with NBC. The reason we were with Mama that day was because it was a snow day. School was canceled, but we were too little to stay alone in our apartment while Mama went to work—which she did, through snow and sleet and probably also earthquakes and Armageddon. Mina had to spread the peanut butter on her own sandwich bread. In fact the only time I remember Mama taking time off work was twenty-five years later, when she had a double hip replacement, generously paid for by the Hallowells.
But when I was little, during school vacations and bouts of fever and snow days like this one, Mama would take us with her on the B train downtown. Hallowell was away in California that week, which happened often, and which meant that Ms. Mina and Christina needed Mama even more. So did Rachel and I, but we were better at taking care of ourselves, I suppose, than Ms. Mina was. When we finally emerged at Seventy-second Street, the world was white. It was not just that Central Park was caught in a snow globe.
Mama tucked away her coat, too, and her lucky scarf—the soft one that smelled like her, and that Rachel and I fought to wear around our house because it felt like petting a guinea pig or a bunny under your fingers. I waited for Mama to move through the dark rooms like Tinker Bell, alighting on a switch or a handle or a knob so that the sleeping beast of a house was gradually brought to life. It was imported from Paris, and it tasted like heaven. I made a house as big as this one. I put a family inside: me, Mama, Rachel. The only way to see them was to tilt the paper sideways toward the chandelier light, so I could make out the shimmer where the crayon had been.
Christina was six, falling neatly between the ages of Rachel and me. Christina had the biggest bedroom I had ever seen and more toys than anyone I knew. When she was home and we came to work with our mother, we played school with her and her teddy bears, drank water out of real miniature china teacups, and braided the corn-silk hair of her dolls. Unless she had a friend over, in which case we stayed in the kitchen and colored. But before Mama could answer, there was a scream so piercing and so ragged that it stabbed me in the chest.
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I knew it did the same to Mama, because she nearly dropped the pot of water she was carrying to the sink. I was drawn in her wake, a balloon tied to her wrist. My hand skimmed over the banister of the curved staircase, not touching. The round of her belly rose like a moon; the shining whites of her eyes made me think of merry-go-round horses, frozen in flight. She was holding the telephone receiver. Mina held her other hand in a death grip.
The Case for Not Being Born
She stood between Rachel and me. But we remained rooted to the spot as Mama quickly forgot about us, lost in a world made of Ms. I watched the cords stand out on Ms. I watched the pink lips between Ms. Two things happened at once: the doorbell rang, and Christina started to cry.
Mina crooned, not scary anymore but still sweaty and red-faced. She held out her hand, but Christina was too terrified by what she had seen, and instead she burrowed closer to me. Rachel, ever practical, went to answer the front door. She returned with two paramedics, who swooped in and took over, so that what Mama had done for Ms. Mina became like everything else she did for the Hallowells: seamless and invisible.
The Hallowells named the baby Louis, after Mama.
He was fine, even though he was almost a full month early, a casualty of the barometric pressure dropping with the storm, which caused a PROM—a premature rupture of membranes. I only knew that on a snowy day in Manhattan I had seen the very start of someone.
The experience of watching Louis being born affected us all differently. Christina had her baby via surrogate. Rachel had five. Me, I became a labor and delivery nurse. When I tell people this story, they assume the miracle I am referring to during that long-ago blizzard was the birth of a baby. True, that was astonishing. But that day I witnessed a greater wonder.
E. M. Cioran - The Trouble With Being Born
As Christina held my hand and Ms. Where everyone was equal, and it was just one woman, helping another. Toggle navigation. NEW Paperback Order your copy now! Buy now! Buy your copy now! Read an excerpt. The difficult self awareness is what sustains this book It's also exciting to have a high-profile writer like Picoult take an earnest risk to expand our cultural conversation about race and prejudice. About Small Great Things. Some books leave you thinking.
This one gets you talking. Can Ruth be the hero of her own story?
Or must she be saved by Kennedy? A fantastic read from beginning to end , as can always be expected from Picoult, this novel maintains a steady, page turning pace that make it hard for readers to put down. It also allows for conversations to be had and for people to sit back and look at their life, actions past and present and wonder how they will move forward.
This is a fantastic book not only because it addresses something that happens in America and around the world every day, but it also shows us that change is possible too. Small Great Things challenges readers, particularly those who carry privilege in the color of their skin, to look at the world in a different way.