Saturday, March 30, 2013

DEJA DEJA VU



Call it it timidity, call it fatigue, call it a feeling of having  been there there done that, call it the wish to reconcile an author's  right to document her experience and my right not to find that she does so in immortal prose. No, I am ducking this one. As a Brazilian Jew I tend not define people by the color of their skin and that, I believe, disqualifies me from reviewing VIRGIN SOUL, by Judy Juanita, whose characters breathe and live the racism visited upon them and that which they visit on those whose skin color happens to be lighter than their. The contradiction of an author who uses the man's to denounce his evil nature must be wrenching for the author, after all, acquired her writing skills in institutions where the man's language is taught is glaring. How can I know her anguish? I cannot, though I have to assume I know a good book from a mediocre one or there would be no point in publishing this blog.
It is difficult, in  these post-Obama days to be reminded of such a turbulent era in the history of my adopted country. True, I never  Black Panthers. I heard Dick Gregory speak in the Dakotas where Native Americans  were the target of racism.Dick Gregory ignored that. It makes me feel old and fatigued to remember the Vietnam war. There is a feeling  that all nations are guilty of great crimes at some time or another. Look at Darfur, look at the African countries where slavery exists.  Listen for the outcry that will not come, now that Darfur is old news and slavery in Africa never got to the front page of the major periodicals.
We have had so many wars since Vietnam it is hard to make it the only target for our outrage. But I  remember it well.  How could I not?At height of anti-war protests,  I was a young bride, a beige, dark-haired  stranger in the land of very blond people who took me for another Lakota. At the time, I  was married to a conscientious objector. I remember Mi Lai. I remember photos of little girls on fire. This is not the book to help me carry the burden of American. It is too tenuous, too uneven despite its moments  of lyricism.It is too uneven despite the loving portraits of Grandma Goosie and the astonishingly beautiful letter that has nothing whatever to do with race--it is a letter from a woman to another, human to human.
We have, each of us a story to tell. We have, all of us, as a Ukrainian friend reminded me once me, ancestors who were "genocided." We have all us, come from Ethiopia and that alone ought to  invalidate the pretension  of white supremacy as well as the  pretension that Mother Africa belongs to Americans of African ancestry. No, I don't share the experience of slavery. My people were slaves too long ago, in Babylon and in pre-Expulsion Spain. Oh, there was the Native Brazilian ancestor caught by hunting dogs, but hey, I am here and I am still waiting for a really good book on the sum of us all. Maybe that will be Judy Juanita's next novel.

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