Home » books » shy history book review: falling for the girl who fell

shy history book review: falling for the girl who fell

Have I mentioned how awesome my bday month has been?  There were, of course, the gifts – and the friends – and the homemade red velvet cake – all delightfully spread throughout the month to give a special savor to March, this year.  Shoot, even Psych got in on the act, saving the best episode this season (Mr. Yin Presents) for my actual birthday.

It began in February, when I inexplicably went on a book-buying frenzy [a few times a year it must be done], and randomly picked up a slim, dark blue, hardcover with a simple cover art and an intriguing title: The Girl Who Fell From the Sky.  I hadn’t heard of it, but read the blurb, and paged through to get a feel for the writing.  [This is how I choose all the books I read.]  The blurb grabbed my attention, immediately:  “Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I., becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy after a fateful morning on a Chicago rooftop.  Forced to move to a new and strange city, with her strict African American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel is thrust for the first time into a mostly black community, where her light brown skin,  startling blue eyes, and beauty bring a constant stream of attention her way.”

Maybe it shouldn’t have – but it’s so rare that I come across a book with a biracial heroine …umm…I can’t even think of another one right now – but maybe I’ve read one…I’m sure I have…I think.  Anyway, I read this book (this month) and really enjoyed it.

The style of writing make the book an easy read, even with some heavy stuff going on – and I have to admit there was a moment when I put the book down and just cried.  That’s not normal for me.  I was crying on behalf of the father, and I couldn’t stop.  So there I sat, in the Ford reading room, as I waited for my car’s oil change/checkup to be completed, crying over a book.

There are a few similarities between the protagonist and I, considering we have white moms and black dads, and our parents met in Germany.  But this girl who fell – while I see some aspects of myself in her, her story is miles apart from my own.

I remember growing up not-quite-white.  To borrow a quote from Thea I just saw tonight:

I definitely got the “the world will be yours message!” from my white mama. Imagine how confused I was when it didn’t work out. But I digress.

This is exactly the message I got.  The message Rachel’s mama started out believing.  The message Rachel started out believing.  I’ve been muddling my way through this race-crazy world ever since I landed on solid ground.  My head sometimes still likes to take off for the clouds, but it’s different now.  When I was little, sometimes I would actually forget I was brown.  And I wasn’t prepared for the way the world worked.  I’ve always been optimistic, prone to giving people the benefit of the doubt, and willing to be friends with anyone who wanted to be friends with me.  This often lead to overlooking comments, or the trends of who my friends’ friends were.

Our ideas of what life is like – what our lives will be like – are so shaped by the pictures we get from our parents, and mine was no different.  I imagined great and wonderful things – a possible presidency even, prior to understanding the hellacious nature of the job.  And really, when I was very young, most of what my parents focused on was teaching me that no one could keep me from doing whatever I wanted to do, just because I was a girl.  We didn’t really talk about color in our house until I was older. And even then, it was only dad, saying that he wanted to prepare us for things that mom hadn’t had to go through – for a world that would see us differently that it had seen her. But by then I was unreceptive, largely because we hadn’t talked about it when I was younger, and I was inclined to disbelieve comments about prejudice inherent in the system.

I finally started catching glimmers of de facto life in seventh grade, when my best friend in school – a fellow nerd – and I were talking about people in our class we thought were cute/we’d like to date.  He suggested a 10th grade boy for me, because he was one of the only two brown guys at school [the other being in K4]. (I decided not to mention my crushes on guys that were actually in our grade.)  Then, when I called a friend from my first yr in college and she told me they’d brought another brown girl into the program to replace me/fill the quota, I laughed.  She didn’t.  She told me she was serious.  But I was just scratching the surface.

I’ve learned a lot in the meantime.  Nothing like real-world demonstrations [i.e. The School of Hard Knocks] to speed your education in the ways of privilege. And being able to talk about issues with my dad [even though his feminism is full of holes] helps me get perspective on a lot of things that I’m just beginning to understand.  But I’m still optimistic.  Hopelessly.

And I notice the girl who fell has got two long braids just like I used to – and I’m glad my daddy was there to catch me when I fell.

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