Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
I don’t even know where to begin with my review of this book – I loved, loved, loved it. I had put this on hold at the library a long time ago and of course it came in when I had already checked out three other books from the school library. I can honestly say the Jodi Picoult that I fell in love with years ago is back. I struggled getting into her last few books, but this one was worth the wait.
Summary from Goodreads:
Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?
Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.
With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.
Words can not describe my feelings about this book. Picoult tackles these difficult topics and on each and every page, I took time to stop and think about my own actions, my own biases, my own beliefs about race. I know people will critic Picoult, but she is a master of words and topics and ALWAYS makes me think. In her author’s note, she discusses her interest in writing a book about racism. She worried that people would judge her because she hadn’t lived this experience. But then she read a news story about an African American nurse in Flint, MI who had been a labor and delivery nurse for over 20 years. One day this nurse was told by her supervisor that she was no longer allowed to touch the baby because the baby’s father was a white supremacist. And thus, her story began.
Picoult’s reasoning (directly from her Author’s Note, 461):
Most of us think the word racism is synonymous with the word prejudice. But racism is more than just discrimination based on skin color. It’s also about who has institutional power. Just as racism creates disadvantages for people of color that make success harder to achieve, it also gives advantages to white people that make success easier to achieve. It’s hard to see those advantages, much less own up to them. And that, I realized, was why I had to write this book. When it comes to social justice, the role of the white ally is not to be a savior or a fixer. Instead, 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.
I can’t wait to book talk Small Great Things and pair it up with All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely!