Book club is back! We’ve moved from the Deep South to the Pacific Northwest for this discussion, with The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow.
This debut novel tells the story of Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I. who becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy. With her strict African American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel moves to a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring mixed attention her way. Growing up in the 1980s, she learns to swallow her overwhelming grief and confronts her identity as a biracial young woman in a world that wants to see her as either black or white.
(CN: Child abuse/neglect, various discussions of suicide.)
How it works is that book club members each post a question, answer it, and make the rounds to answer the others’ questions. (All it takes to join is to say “Hey, I’d like to read that book!”) Here’s my question:
What’s the best way to write an “issues” book, and how does Girl Who Fell stack up?
I’ve always said I don’t want to be hit over the head with a sermon. However, I’m starting to realize that I’m okay with very clear messages and lessons, I even prefer them, as long as they complement the book’s characters, story, and themes instead of replacing them. I want the story to be a story, but I’d like to actually understand the story’s meaning. That goes double for a book specifically written to address real-world social issues, as this one seems to be.
While the reading experience is smooth, and certain parts will stay with me, I didn’t find this book to be making a clear statement. It contains issues, but it does not confront them. It mentions hard things, but doesn’t connect me to them. I already know racism is “inconvenient,” but that’s about all I got out of this. I KNOW racism is much harder to deal with than an inconvenience, but I didn’t really feel anything for this book, and it didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know already. Maybe I just wasn’t the audience it was meant to reach. I’ll be interested to hear what others thought of the book, or how to approach an issues book in general.
If you wanna join book club, our next selection is We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, our first nonfiction book. We’ll be posting around the end of March!