Book of the Month

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“Happy Reading”  from HBC librarian, Cheryl Nolan


May/June Book Feature:  Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult


The book I chose for this Banner is the latest book by bestselling author, Jodi Picoult, whose books delve into moral issues currently confronting our way of life.  The topic of this book examines racial beliefs from several perspectives.


Author of over 25 books, Picoult claims she wanted to write a story about racism in the United States after about four years into her writing career but couldn’t because she didn’t know what it was like to grow up Black in this country.  She struggled with creating a character that rang true.  Twenty years later, she was outraged by a story she had seen in a Flint, Michigan paper about an African-American labor and delivery nurse whose supervisor put a note in her file at the request of a baby’s white supremacist father that the nurse and those that look like her not touch his baby.  The incident led to a lawsuit and also the creation of the main characters in the story:  an African-American nurse, Ruth, a white supremacist father, Turk, and a “well-intentioned white lady who would never consider herself to be a racist,” the public defender, Kennedy.


Picoult’s goal in writing this story was not to tell people of color what their own lives are like but to enlighten her own community, white people, “who can very easily point to a neo-Nazi skinhead and say he’s a racist…but who can’t recognize racism in themselves.”  And that is precisely why I chose this book.  Jodi Picoult always takes considerable time to research her topics and this book is no exception.  After reading the story, I began to question my own way of thinking about race and if my beliefs were along the same lines as Kennedy?  I ordered and read some of the resources Picoult used in her research, particularly two books: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and Waking Up White by Debby Irving.  In light of the incidents of vandalism recently reported in the Rochester community that targeted racial and ethnic groups, the killing of police officers and young black men, I believe it’s time to talk about this issue of race.  It’s time to really confront the issues.


Small great things is a good place to start!  This story will help you to examine your own upbringing and resulting biases.  Racism is not synonymous with prejudice.  It is more.  It is also about institutional power and social justice.  Picoult claims “the role of the white ally is not to be a savior or a fixer… the role of the ally is to find other white people and talk to make them see that many of the benefits they’ve enjoyed in life are direct results of the fact that someone else did not have the same benefits.”  As Hilton Baptists valuing Christian outreach in a multitude of ways, we must really examine and consider our beliefs surrounding racism and our role in social justice in our community.  If you read one book a year, read this one!


“People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.                         —Nelson Mandela, A Long Walk to Freedom.”


Happy Reading!                         Cheryl Nolan

Archived reviews can be found here.