Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Community and Communities

Just a short post today because I'm just back from a book event in Michigan--the Southfield Public Library, which is one of the most wonderful modern libraries I've ever seen. The children's department is magical. You can take a virtual tour.
     I want to tell you many things about my experience there, but I am too tired after all the driving and all the talking and all the thinking. The point I want to make is this: The day before I left, a book group discussed my book and wrote to me with some questions. Among them, they asked what kind of reaction my book has gotten from the black community, and ditto for the Jewish community. Then, I went to the Southfield library, and got the same questions. In one case, it was a black woman who asked me what reaction I've had from the black community. 
     I think what this question represents is the fact that the book contains potential controversy, that it is in some way bold, and I am glad about this. But the thing I realized last night is that there is no ONE REACTION from any community, that there really isn't even ONE COMMUNITY. As portrayed in my book, there were multiple points of view in both the Jewish and black communities (and of course still are). And I have in fact had many reactions from both communities. So far, no one has gotten really mad at me for anything I wrote (at least not on the Jewish or racial front). No one has told me that they were offended. Someone out there may have been offended, and I have wondered about this, but no one has told me about it. 
     One black woman last night (she hadn't read my book) asked whether I'd used black dialect in my book, and noted that doing so is controversial. I am aware of the controversy, and said I thought I took a conservative approach with black dialect, that I'd even scaled it back a bit, based on my editor's feedback. Then a black man spoke up and said he was glad that I had taken a conservative approach on the dialect front (he had read my book and told me he loved it). So there you have some of my feedback from at least two voices in the black community.

3 comments: said...

As a former resident of Detroit, I am aware of the problems you address so accurately in your book. Kudos for the way you interweave the racial controversy by personalizing it with anecdotes about your life there. Frankly, I believe GRAND RIVER AND JOY ROAD would get much more national attention if it was written about another city. This comment supports my belief and anger that Detroit was left for dead after the Riot.

We are definitely not ONE COMMUNITY. ONE COMMUNITY would insist on equality for all. While this may sound naive, I now live in another border city, a suburb of Phoenix AZ. We have a race problem that affects all. Negative equality, if you will. The current immigration horror law divides us further. To attempt to trick residents into believing the law is not racist, or more accurately aimed at making the lives of Mexican citizens miserable, the police stop Causians occasionally and these stops are written about in the newspaper so as to create a false sense of equality.

An older White man was stopped recently. His hair touched his shoulders; he was wearing a rock music shirt; and carrying his motorcycle helmet, although there is no helmet law in AZ. My husband fits that description as do many other men, who like my husband, are born in the US. Consequently, we must all carry proof of citizenship. If one cannot prove citizenship, they may face a $2500 fine and six months in prison. Carrying this proof, in addition to being reprehensible, puts us all at risk for assault. Suddenly, with only the signature of a governor who does not understand that illegal entry to this country is a crime, not color, we are all minorities. Welcome to Arizona, once known as the Grand Canyon State and now forever known as the "Show Your Papers State" as named by Rachel Maddow.

No. I'm afraid we will never be ONE COMMUNITY. Not as long as 63% of those poled recently in the US agree with this - sounds like Nazi to me - kind of discrimination.

And just as illegal immigration is a crime; not a color, dialect is regional, having nothing to do with racial diversity.

On a personal note, thank you for posting a virtual tour of the Southfield Library. My daughter worked there part-time during her teen age years. I'm thrilled that the Library looks so swell.

Susan Messer said...


A lot to think about here. Thanks for opening your heart about this difficult and troubling situation. said...

And thank you for posting and commenting.