READING: The Girl Who Fell from the Sky

10 Jan

Reading: The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow

Why you should be reading: Theme (Identity)

I’ve been ruminating on the topic of race a lot lately. I know its a touchy subject because once people get to talking about, it’s almost certain that someone is bound to get offended or be embarrassed or any multitude of emotions, even if all of the people in the room are of the same race, let alone if there are people of two or more races in one room. Boy. I think we’ve all been in that situation, whether friends have gathered and the conversation veered in that direction or a classroom discussion, generated by by a reading, or a movie.

I’ve recently (last week!) transferred to a university far more diverse than the one I used to attend, where I was one of just a few black people. Now, I see many more black people, white people, Asian students, people of Arabic and Indian descent—every single day. But I only know what it’s like to be one race, and the struggles and challenges presented by that. I have no idea what’s like to be bi- or multiracial, but that’s exactly the life depicted in Heidi W. Durrow’s The Girl Who Fell from the Sky.

Durrow tells the story of Rachel, the child of one black parent (a military G.I.) and one white parent (a Danish woman). Tragically, at a very young age, Rachel is the only living person in her immediate family, and she’s forced to move into a mostly black neighborhood and live with her strict grandmother. Suddenly, Rachel, who’s never really be forced to see herself as one race, is living in a world that wants her to choose—white or black.

As the story progresses, the reader is also treated to the general ups and downs a young girl might face. Rachel has to deal with fitting in at school, puberty, boys, and doing all of the self-evaluation every young person goes through.

Durrow paints her world with such painstaking depth and truth, that in moments of the novel, I honestly felt as though she could have been writing moments from my life, from the couch of my living room, jotting down the words of my aunts and uncles.

All of this is mixed in with a little mystery, and the reader is kept in the dark about some of the events surrounding Rachel, which keeps the story chugging along as the reader is left to question, how, when and why?

Rachel is such an accessible character, because even though her racial identity is such a huge struggle for her, it’s just one facet of the other ways she chooses to identify herself. The great thing about this novel is that it doesn’t deny the effect our race and it’s history has on us. But it does beg the question: Is that all we are? Does that really have to be the only way to define us?

I think that many of us would say, “No, of course not,” but it happens each and every day, from people of all races. The Girl Who Fell from the Sky challenges that, and shows us, through Rachel how to break out and away from that mindset.

So, what topics, big or small have you been thinking about lately? Have you read The Girl Who Fell from the Sky? Or maybe you’ve heard Heidi W. Durrow speak? Let me know, leave a comment below!

(Photo Credit)

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