There are many ways in which America tells you you don’t belong. The eyes that slide around to find another face behind you. The smiles that appear only after you have almost passed them, intended for someone else. The stiffness in the body as you stand beside them watching your child and theirs slide down the pole, and the relaxed smile when another white mother comes up to talk. The polite distance as you say something about the children at the swings and the chattiness when a white parent makes a comment. A polite people, it is the facial muscles, the shoulder tension, and the silence that give away white Americans’ uneasiness with people not like them. The United States, a nation of immigrants, makes strangers only of those who are visibly different, including the indigenous people of the continent. Some lessons begin in infancy, with silent performances, yet with eloquent instructions.
My cousin (thanks Karen!) sent me a link to an article with the recommendations of 22 foreign ambassadors to the US of what one book people should read before visiting their country. Only seven of these were already on my list, so I got to add a few new titles. After the jump, what I added and what I didn’t, and why.
I have, as usual, been falling behind on my book reviews. I’ve been reading, though, as much as I can while also being a full-time parent to a toddler and attempting to get in as much paid editing work as possible during nap times. I read 58 books last year, which is a fairly significant fall-off from 2017’s 89, for which I blame the fact that I weaned my daughter and thus no longer had several hours a day of being forced to sit still in a chair with nothing to do but read. Of the books I read, a little more than a third were for this project, all of them from the Philippines. I just managed to finish my last Filipino book on December 31, and have now moved on to Brunei, which is a blessedly short list. I also read a fair few books as background for the novel I’m writing: as many books as I could by Black British women, and a few memoirs set in prisons in the UK (and no, I am not writing the book that that sentence makes it seem I am writing). Anyway, only
a day a few days a week late, here’s a list of books I read last year, with some brief annotations.