Welcome to another round of book Bingo, it’s already getting tougher each week to chose a square and a book to match, I think I’m going to need to pick a square and find a book that fits each fortnight from now on. This round I’ve chosen Themes of Inequality and used the novel Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult.
I listened to this in my car and was horror struck at times by the racism portrayed, shaking my head in disbelief at the way people think and behave; despite knowing that this is an actual truth unfortunately in our society. I still find it hard to get my head around, the hatred and behaviour of people towards another because of the colour of their skin.
This is the story of a black nurse, a white supremacist and a white public defender. It was a story that had me on edge the whole way through, telling a tale and giving voice to a subject that too often is ignored and not spoken about: the Inequality that exists around people of colour or race. This is set in America, but here in Australia, the Inequality between white Australians and the Aboriginal people, especially when it comes to being charged with crime, is as big a problem here as it is there.
Ruth Jefferson, a black Labour and delivery nurse (the only black nurse in the hospital) is trying to do her job when a new father demands she is stopped from touching his baby because of the fact she is African American. The fact that her supervisor goes along with this had me feeling incredulous. The parents are white supremacists who completely believe that the colour of your skin determines who is superior and that people of colour are not people.
Their baby dies and Ruth is thrown under a bus by her hospital and then by the family who have her charged with murder. Her court lawyer is a white woman Kennedy McQuarrie, who takes Ruth’s case to heart because of something Ruth says and fights to stay on her case.
This is a learning curve for Ruth and Kennedy, race is NOT spoken about in a court of law, EVER. The trial is mind-blowing as is the case itself. It is mentioned more than once “if this was a white nurse, we wouldn’t even be here”.
There is lots of learning and educating throughout this emotional story of a fight for justice in a case that is primarily about race. This is based on a true story, luckily one that never made it to court, instead the hospital was sued for discrimination.
There is a scene where Kennedy is talking to her mother about racism and how it feels like they haven’t come anywhere in all these years of fighting for equality, her mother responds by saying from where she sits she’s amazed how far they’ve come. It may be changed from what it was 50 years ago, but it’s not enough. We all need to help end inequality due to race by being people who don’t allow others to spout racist jokes or slurs, by standing up and saying this isn’t the right way to talk or behave. By not being complicit in racism by standing by and watching it happen.
Ruth has had to endure so much inequality throughout her life, which as a white person I can’t imagine. She teaches Kennedy some huge lessons about inequality and racism as this story unfolds. And of course us as readers or listeners.
This is an important story and once again author Jodi Picoult is not afraid to tackle the difficult issues, the ones people want to ignore and forget about, unless they are the ones facing them.