› Forums › The 2023 Reading Challenge Discussion Groups › Archived Discussion Groups from 2023 Challenges › Read Around the USA – CT, DE, NJ, NY, PA › SMALL GREAT THINGS by Jodi Picoult › Important topic, written by the wrong author?
- This topic has 13 replies, 11 voices, and was last updated 7 months ago by Becki.
June 27, 2023 at 7:00 am #376JaimetteParticipant@jaimettemcculley
I’ll start out by saying I read this book a while ago and it has stayed with me for a long time. It was the book that hooked me on Jodi Picoult. Her books as you know are message books and this book had a clear message. I loved it, but did I love it because I am a white woman.🤷♀️
As I have grown in my understanding of privilege and talked with others and read reviews about the book, I learn / have learned even more! Should Jodi have included a co-author in this book or not written this book?
should I be reading about racism from a POC author? I do , but when I don’t am I contributing to privilege and protecting myself?
Sorry for the deep post, I have spent a lot of time thinking about this over an extended period.
June 27, 2023 at 11:30 am #380Kathy CoakerParticipant@kmcoaker518gmail-com
One of the things I like about Jodi Piccoult’s books is they are extremely well researched and there is always a message. I think she makes people aware of different perspectives and opens people’s eyes to a different way of thinking. Maybe a white person would be more open to reading it because she is a white author.
It is definitely worth staying on the list.
June 27, 2023 at 11:32 am #381Book Girls’ GuideKeymaster@bookgirlsguideam
This is such a great consideration, Jaimette! And one that I think the answer is as complicated as the subject. It’s something we talk about fairly regularly, and for us, it usually comes down to a book-by-book decision. You’ve covered some of the concerns and questions we ask ourselves, but we also consider whether the book’s approach and author will reach readers who have not had the opportunity to really understand contemporary racism beyond sound bites on the news.
Of course, the caveat is that we’re also analyzing this from our white perspective. And we probably get it wrong sometimes, but when we think about what we can do to help big picture, we land on meeting people where they are and finding resources that we think can open eyes and change hearts. So we see authors like Jodi who write well-researched books as a gateway, and then we hope reading continues into picking up first-hand accounts, followed by more pressure on publishers to provide more opportunities for diversity on everyone’s shelves.
We love the idea of co-authors, like Marie Benedict did with Victoria Christopher Murray for The Personal Librarian. And we should all be reading about racism from those who live it, not from just a white perspective. But we also believe that sometimes bridges are needed, and for the white authors who feel compelled to write stories that can be the bridge, we think those stories should be read.
However, we also think those bridge books shouldn’t be published at the expense of a contract to another author, which is actually how we approach it when we create lists. If there is one slot left on a book list, the edge is going to the author with first-hand experience about the region/culture/topic. But in some cases like this, Jodi Picoult was going to get another book contract no matter what, so we celebrate that she uses her platform to acknowledge hard things. We know you were commenting for your own reading, but we hope it was helpful hearing some of our thoughts from the Book Girls perspective as well.
June 27, 2023 at 2:52 pm #395JaimetteParticipant@jaimettemcculley
Book girls guide- I appreciate the extensive time and critical thinking you place on this. I loved this book and was very happy it was on your list so others had the opportunity to have it on the TBR lists.
June 27, 2023 at 3:24 pm #399Book Girls’ GuideKeymaster@bookgirlsguideam
Thank you! And thank you jumping in and being vulnerable with your own thoughts!
June 28, 2023 at 1:35 pm #460Tami HinshawParticipant@tamijo
I also read this some time ago. At the time, I loved the book, and because my daughter is a labor and delivery nurse, it felt somewhat relevant. I asked her if she had ever had a client request another nurse, and she said yes. My daughter is an agnostic, and the family wanted a nurse who was a Christian. Not sure how that turned out.
Since then, I too have thought a lot about who should be allowed to write about race, LGBTQ issues, etc. I especially got into this with the novel, “American Dirt”, when there was so much controversy around that author.
There is value to both sides of the argument. By having white authors write a book like “Small Great Things”, perhaps we are preventing people of color from being published.
I am not a writer (of fiction – only engineering papers – boring), but I have always loved reading most fiction. In the past so much fiction would not have been written if we eliminated all appropriation, but maybe that is the very problem.
However, that said, I think the book is worth reading and should stay on the list. It seems well researched, and I felt great sympathy for Ruth.
June 29, 2023 at 10:08 am #546Amy VParticipant@amyv
I read this several years ago as well. I will always defer to authors with lived experience in their subject matter. That said, I thought Jodi did a good job in this one of not only pointing out and showing the reader what blatant white supremacy looks like but also pointing out the problems with “white saviorism” which she did in the character of the lawyer if I remember correctly. If more white people would point this out to other white people we could all be in a better place. In this case I think it is the job of white people to call each other out and this book did that quite well.
June 30, 2023 at 5:38 am #582Theresa ChimentiParticipant@tchimenti
I really liked this book and have recommended it to others. Discussions have led to looking at healthcare today and then other areas of society such as education and the criminal justice system. Well researched and engaging stories can really help get some important conversations going.
June 30, 2023 at 8:41 am #600Tammy WassermanParticipant@twasserman
Jodi P has a huge fan base and I think her writing encourages her readers to think more deeply about hard topics.
I loved this book and it’s perspective. It really made me think about racism in a different way. I am a retired teacher(white)….how would I have felt/responded if a family did not want their child with me based solely on race?
July 3, 2023 at 11:16 am #691ShannonParticipant@shannon24
I really liked this book, and haven’t read much by Jodi Picoult. With books like this, I always make sure to read the Author’s Note at the end, since it helps put things into perspective on how she developed the story. I appreciate how much research she puts into her books. The only other one I’ve read is Mad Honey.
I do believe there’s some “saviorism” going on in this book, but watching the lawyer change throughout it, even while she told herself she wasn’t racist, she was learning. We all can stand to learn more where we fall short on racial relationships. There are plenty of books on racism by both BIPOC and white people, and sometimes we need another white person to call us out on our own racial prejudices.
July 3, 2023 at 12:39 pm #703Kris IngraParticipant@kajingram
I, too, thought of American Dirt and its authorship controversy while I read this. I did think of the Personal Librarian, too. I did wonder why there was no co-author. I did like the book- a lot. I am finding there is a difference between liking and respecting a book. I think I might have respected it more with a co-author. I really respected The Personal Librarian for providing that.
July 7, 2023 at 6:01 am #764JaimetteParticipant@jaimettemcculley
I like the distinction between like the book and respected. I loved the book and really like the author and her approach / formula for different topics. But maybe need to put an * next to it and others , like American Dirt which I also loved and didn’t realize the controversy until after I read it.
Are there others, like this? I feel like an uninformed reader sometimes and this group is helping me be more informed prior to selecting a book.
July 5, 2023 at 9:22 pm #739SheridanParticipant@sheridanlorraine
This is one of my favorite books from one of my favorite authors of all time because she really grappled with the perspective of the white supremacists and how they change. If you read the author’s note at the end, you know that she worked really hard to get into these opposing viewpoints heads and through the events of the plot, to show them trying to understand one another, and how they changed one another, even though they were never going to like the other. As a teacher, I often have to do the same thing, to try to understand the perspective of someone who – on the surface – I don’t understand or like very much and see their humanity. I think this is what Picoult tried to do and did a splendid job of doing. Not many authors could do these two diametrically opposed perspectives and pull it off. This is one book that I believe is being challenged in some districts in FL – and it’s one I will fight to keep on classroom shelves.
July 30, 2023 at 2:04 pm #1036BeckiParticipant@beckimoody
I absolutely understand and applaud the questioning and think that is an important part of the message. But I also think she was writing to a group who would not (probably) have read the same book by a POC. I heard similar complaints about Razorblade Tears but I think it’s ok to write for the audience you have. Now as we learn more, part of that education is to seek out the POC books that help us continue to understand. It’s a jumping off point.
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