Sometimes when I read, I go looking for a window. I need a book to help me see what is happening in the world. I want to stand in someone else’s skin, look through their eyes, challenge my own beliefs. During the Black Lives Matters movement, I’ve wanted more and more windows. I want to understand. I want to see. I want to feel. So, I’ve sought out Black authors who are willing to put a little bit of their heart on the page. Jacqueline Woodson does that well – she leaves heart, blood, bone, bile — everything on the page. So, her latest novel, Red at the Bone was an easy choice.
But, Red at the Bone wasn’t an easy book. The timeline dashes like sprints in gym glass.
Run to this point, run back, run to a further point, run back, run just a few paces ahead, run back.
Yet it was easy to keep pace. The book is lean with all the exercise and the pages beg to turn. Woodson can make three-dimensional characters with the tiniest bits of clay.
And, her characters are real and messy, which also isn’t easy. This book is filled with hard themes and triggers: teen pregnancy, abortion, cancer, homosexuality, RACISM, drugs, murder, colorism, class, abandonment, terrorism… it’s all there. And, it’s sometimes hard to read. This is a hard window to look through. It’s okay if you can’t read it right now. THIS BOOK IS NOT FOR EVERYONE.
But it’s interesting, isn’t it, how even a window has a reflection? Sometimes you can get distracted by glimmers of your own shape and features bouncing off the glass. I found myself on some of those pages – found myself in ways it was painful to acknowledge and in ways I didn’t want to be seen. I also found myself in the sturdiness of the women, the desire to persist even when life is less than perfect. And, it reminded me… ain’t I a woman, too?
This book is a powerful reminder that there are lives, upon lives, upon lives in our country – all of them different, all of them worthy, all of them with a story and reasons and history… most of them doing the best they can. This book is a testament of all the ways women are strong, all the reasons why women have to be strong. This book shows the resiliency of Black Americans and their resolve to continue rising.
This book was both a window and a mirror. And, I think maybe that’s the point. Maybe we should read to understand others, but pick up any pebbles of ourselves we find along the way.