Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Book Review: Two Books

When I Was White by Sarah Valentine

In this memoir, Valentine describes growing up in her white, suburban family in the Pittsburgh area. It isn't until she is 27 that her mother tells her that the father who raised her is not her biological father and that her biological father was African-American. Valentine knew she had been viewed as "different" while growing up, but race was never discussed in her family. She has never put her "different-ness" into words for herself. It comes as a shock to her, though it explains her ponderings about herself, to realize that she is of mixed race.

In America where race has always been such a big thing, the fact that her family never discussed it was a huge disservice to Valentine, depriving her of the opportunity to fully understand herself and her heritage. In fact, the most they ever seem to say about race is to forbid her from dating anyone who is not white.

For many years, Valentine works on self-realization and searching for the identity of her biological father. Her family could have spared her so many years of angst.

Mr. g: A Novel About Creation by Alan Lightman

Mr.g lives in the Void with his Aunt Penelope and Uncle Deva. He is bored, so decides to create a universe. First he makes times, then space, then matter. Then he makes a chair for his aunt. As solar systems and galaxies begin to form, he is delighted and intrigued with what he has created. It's a whimsical/scientific/philosophical look at creation. After some of the planets are populated, a satan-like being questions Mr. g about humans' free will and encourages Mr. g not to interfere. Mr. g is saddened by suffering so struggles a bit with that option.

The book includes a lot of scientific processes and philosophical questions that we have all pondered such as: what is life? Why are we here? Why is there suffering? What is space? How can we begin to imagine the great emptiness and void?

It could have been interesting and humorous and fun, but instead it plodded along and was not something I wanted to spend my time reading. I only finished it because it was for a book club. None of us particularly liked it, though we understood its presentation of our unanswerable questions.

This time you get a non-book-related photo. It's my great-niece in Nebraska, sporting her Minnesota Vikings shirt and resting on the quilt I made for her. Adorable, yes?

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