[689]: Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

28587957Understanding the difficult racial climate in America.


Small Great Things
by Jodi Picoult

I read this over a month ago now and still to this day, I’ve yet to find the right words to convey my every thought and feeling that can perfectly show why this is probably one of the most importatnt book you’ll read given the racial climate in the US. My emotions were only ramped up soon after the elections and news about violence towards Muslims, LGBTQ, and African Americans spread all over the world. And as the normalization of the Nazi movement (otherwise known as Alt-Right) soon becomes apparent, I was filled with equal amount of fear and rage to what this presidential election brought.

This is one of those books that I read with my eyes half wide-open. I was too terrified to see the full picture, but I knew I was giving it a disservice by not paying attention. I couldn’t help myself. The thought that the Nazi movement was making a resurgence scared me. And all the while, I was comforting myself with the thought that I was, after all, only reading a work of fiction. But here we are. And this is now. America has a president-elect that normalized hate, manipulated the unducated, and turned half the country from the truth and the democratic process. He has the support of the KKK and the Alt-Right Nazis. But you won’t hear him enthusiastically disavowing these movements whose creed is based on racial hate. Nope.

Small Great Things came into my life when I didn’t think blatant, in-your-face racism was a possibility. It’s about an Ivy League-educated nurse with 20 years of experience who found herself the ire of a White Supremacist couple. While she was tasked to take care of their newborn son, they ordered the hospital administration that under no circumstances would she be allowed to touch their baby because of the colour of her skin. She’s an African-American woman who worked hard all her life to better herself and to never become a statistics. All that changed when she was forced to make a choice between the order she was given and saving a baby boy’s life.

Jodi Picoult wrote with the best intentions. She wanted a conversation, a perspective, and a challenge for her audience. She does succeed because this book is very timely. Who woud’ve thought that a book that she’s started years ago would come at a time such as these?

I often find myself at a loss for words and somewhat hesitant to comment on how realistic an author’s portrayal was of characters that are people of colour. I’m not an expert so I’m not going to sit her and pretend she was dead-on in immortalizing Ruth, her sister Adisa, and their mother. She went into this armed with research and interviews, sure. But unless I stood in their stead, I wouldn’t know. Unless I’m stupid enough to use a second hand account (which I’m not).

I’ve learned a few truths about racism in this book. I’ve learned that you can be the most educated person in the world, or the most experienced in your craft, but at the end of the day, all that mean squat when confronted with bigots of the world. I learned that there are two kinds of racism: passive racism and active racism and that the difference is ย subtlety and your willingness to show the world your hate. This book made me think about all the ways I’ve become a participant – consciously and unconsciously – in the act of racism by simply not saying a word whenever someone makes a joke about another person’s race. This book is probably a great introduction to read if you want to understand the difficult racial climate in America. It paints a disturbing picture, but it’s not a broad stroke.

  • Hugs. <3 Gorgeous review Joy. I'm so glad you loved this book. It sounds pretty heartbreaking yet so amazing too. I would be interested in reading it, one day. When there aren't so many people on twitter looking for people to hate, hah ๐Ÿ™‚ But yeah. This one seems like a good book.

  • Benish

    I borrowed this book from the library, and I’m so excited to read it as well ๐Ÿ™‚ It sounds like a powerful and thought provoking read. Great review & thanks for sharing ! x Benish @ Beenazai

  • I completely agree with you about this book. It was so hard to adequately convey just how important and how awesome I found this book. There was some of it that was just so hard to read, mostly the stuff from the perspective of the Nazi type guy. But I admit that her portrayal of the lawyer was very eye-opening. I don’t consider myself a racist, but I admit that I have probably said or even done a few things in the past that would have fit into the mold of “passive racism.” I feel like there are a lot of people like that. People think that if they aren’t in the KKK and if they don’t use racial slurs, then they aren’t racist. But it’s not that simple. I feel like more white people need to really be honest with themselves about their own privilege and their own subtle racist thoughts so that they can confront them and do better. I think there are way more passive racists than active ones. Great review, Joy!

  • What a powerful and confronting read Joy, not to mention rage inducing. I think it’s probably racism in its most obvious form, people taking pride in their fucked up prejudice. From a white persons point of view though, we need confronting reads like this to remind us not to be complacent. Is the author white herself? Just curious as I haven’t heard about this one before and haven’t seen if it’s been well received. Brilliant review Joy <3

  • RO

    I love Jodi’s books because they make you think, make you want to talk, and make you want to do something positive. Talking, sharing and working together in a positive way can change many things. Thanks for such an amazing review!

  • Jazmen

    I really like Picoult, and I have heard about the timeliness and importance of this book. So, it is definitely on my TBR. Thanks for sharing this review, Joy. So good!

  • I am often leery of books like this as some of them don’t inform and spread awareness as much as promote more anger, which we don’t need. This story sounds like a promising authentic reading experience, however, and I will probably read it next year.

  • I thought this was a very powerful book. One that I am glad that I read. This book really brought up a lot of points that were extreme and some that were much more subtle. It seems like a very relevant book in today’s world. Great review!

  • I’m a Jodi Picoult fan – I think she does multiple first-person perspectives better than most authors I can think of. (Not sure if that’s her style in this one, but just saying…)

  • This is definitely a book that everyone needs then. I wasn’t sure if I should read it since I’ve never read a book by this author, but you sold me. Sometimes a book can be more eye-opening so I really hope more people in America pick it up and hopefully more speak up about racism. I’m so checking this out. Great review!

  • Sounds like a very powerful read!

  • I have grown up with a sibling and a mother who read Picoult novels like there is no tomorrow. So, because they are so normalised in my eyes, I’ve never really felt a strong pull to picking up one myself. But after reading your review of this, I know I need it in my life. This sounds so powerful, so relevant and like something that will open my mind. I just added it to my TBR!

    • I hope you’ll find a new perspective or strengthen your resolve somehow. <3

  • Oh yea, this sounds like it would be for me. I feel as others do that in one way, the racism that has gained power is easier to confront that the institutional or passive kind. People KNOW that one is wrong and you can have a clearer conversation about it. People don’t like to be confronted with their passive racism, but this has also given a voice to that as well. So, as much as it is scary to see so much hate in the white house, it also has a good side of it as well. Hold onto that.

    • Now that you’ve mentioned it, I’m wondering what percentage of that 62 m Trump votes consist of passive racists?

  • I will never get people like that, it would make me sad reading

    • It made me angry most of the time, actually.

  • oh I do love books like these, where they make you think about deep issues.

    • Especially during these trying times. We can gain a different perspective even if we’re reading fiction.

  • This is a book that I’ve been looking for reviews on because of everything from last month but I don’t know that I’m ready to tackle this kind of book. But thanks for the review, you continue to inspire!

    • Thanks, hun. Maybe when you’re ready. ๐Ÿ˜€

  • I didn’t know anything about this book, so I’m glad you pointed it out to me. Sounds like something I need to be reading.

  • Sounds like an amazing story. I love your review. It’s definitely terrifying seeing what’s going on this country and the fact that the president-elect said nothing to disassociate himself from hate groups. But honestly, I’m not surprised. Look how his campaign ran from start. Anyway, thank you for your great review. I’m motivated to start this one soon.

    • Thanks, Shane. This book is very timely. I wish my book club would pick this so I can actually have a conversation with someone face to face.

  • Jasprit

    You really have been reading books that deal with a lot of tough issues lately Joy, I really don’t think I could deal with this book right now, but Picoult really does create a powerful read Small Great Reads. I’m glad that this book was able to leave such a great impression with you!

    • I don’t know. I seem to be drawn to them lately.

  • ChristinaBookAddict

    Wow! This sounds like a powerful read. I am not sure I am ready for it, but I will have to add it to my TBR list. I’m sure it will have me upset, especially when considering what’s going on in the US right now. ๐Ÿ™

  • kindlemom1

    Wonderful review Joy, I’m so glad this was able to impact you as much as it did, I really do love stories like that, the ones that change you, open your eyes and stick with you.

    • Thanks, Ali. Pretty much, yes. All the things that you said.

  • Sounds like this book was quite a moving read for you with everything that has gone on recently. I’m glad that it was a great read for you.

    • Thanks, it definitely was. It’s great to gain perspective once in a while.

  • Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings

    I’ve been reaching out to books to deal with the aftermath of this presidential election as well so I’m definitely going to be adding this to my TBR. It sounds every bit as thought-provoking as I want it to be and I love the dialogue about active and passive racism. Wonderful review, Joy!

    • Ah yes. You have to read this one, Keertana. I now know more about these white supremacists – more than I want to know, that is.