There’s been a lot of talk lately about the representation of people of colour within the publishing industry. In both areas, those being published and those doing the publishing, PoC are shockingly unrepresented, and with ignorant and misleading comments repeatedly being made by those higher up in the industry (and in other industries), it is a risky move right now to be releasing a book broaching the topic of racism, if you’re white.
Yet, that’s the move Jodi Picoult has found herself in, with her latest novel, Small Great Things.
Ruth has been a midwife for years. She is brilliant at her job, and prides herself on understanding the needs of every mother-t0-be who steps onto the ward. That is until a couple request she is taken off their case, for no other reason than the colour of her skin. But when Ruth discovers their newborn son is struggling to breathe, she must decide to help him herself and go against their wishes, or find help elsewhere, and risk not finding anyone in time to save him.
Told from multiple points-of-view, Small Great Things is a truly moving, and at times, disturbing, examination of race relations in America. Picoult cleverly retells various moments in the story from differing perspectives, to try and force the reader to understand all sides.
It is wonderfully written, even if it is still very difficult to even begin to understand a Neo-Nazi’s motivations, (or, from a British POV, how it’s even legal for them to hold rallies and protests!).
Ruth’s gradual realisation of how much ingrained racism still exists in modern day USA is conveyed very cleverly, and helps not only open her eyes to it, but also the reader’s.
“It is amazing how you can look in a mirror your whole life and think you are seeing yourself clearly. And then one day, you peel off a filmy gray layer of hypocrisy, and you realize you’ve never truly seen yourself at all.
I still question whether it is right for a white author to be broaching this topic, when there are many authors of colour who could bring a more personal approach to it, and who rarely get the opportunity to have their own voices heard, and I would’ve liked more perspectives from the other African American characters, because there were a few too many white characters given a voice over theirs, in my opinion.
Overall though, I will say that Jodi Picoult has produced a very interesting book, that exceeds the expectations I had, and which is probably one of the most well-written books of her career so far.
Small Great Things is published November 22nd
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.