POVone: The First Person Perspective

Rants and Reviews on Novels Written in the First Person Point of View

Tag Archives: Racism

Book Review: Under the Same Blue Sky by Pamela Schoenewaldt

Author: Pamela Schoenewaldt
Title: Under the Same Blue Sky
Genre: Historical; Literary
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow (HarperCollins)
Number of Pages: 352
Narrator: Hazel Renner
Quality Rating: TBD

Under the Same Blue Sky by Pam Schoenewaldt

What’s It About?

Hazel Renner is the daughter of German immigrants, living in Pittsburgh at the onset of the first World War. As she grows, her family realizes that she possesses a miraculous gift of healing. Although she denies the ability and brushes it off as coincidence, her parents believe she is destined to become a doctor.

As the war breaks out and lines are drawn, German-Americans fall under scrutiny. Hazel’s family becomes increasingly torn between their new home and their heritage across the sea. To escape the chaos of the discrimination in the city, Hazel tries to find solace working as a teacher in a small town miles away. When the situation doesn’t work out, she goes off in search of the truth about her past–hidden from her as a child.

Hazel ends up working for a baron in a castle. The baron, also a German immigrant, feels the same tensions from the war as the rest of her family. In the castle, Hazel finds love in a man she remembers vaguely from her childhood. As the story progresses, the problems of the war raging across the sea manifest themselves in Hazel’s everyday life. As Hazel loses more and more to the war, she clings to the hope of having something left of herself as it draws to an end.

Should You Read It?

If you like historical fiction of the World War 1 era, you might enjoy this story. The focus is less about the war than it is about its effects on civilians. In particular, the racial discrimination that arises during wars between nations is a prevalent theme throughout. The gift of healing possessed by Hazel is not a significant plot point and serves more as a symbol regarding the brokenness of war. The story and its tone reminded me a lot of Jane Eyre. It’s essentially about a woman’s struggle to grapple with circumstances that are beyond her control. If that sounds interesting to you, you might find this to be a moving story.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

Book Reviews: Magical Realism, Peeking Between the Pages

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Pamela Schoenewaldt: Swimming in the Moon (2013), When We Were Strangers (2011)

Book Review: God Help the Child by Toni Morrison

Author: Toni Morrison
Title: God Help the Child
Genre: Literary
Publication Date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: Random House
Number of Pages: 192
Narrator: Sweetness, Bride, Etc.
Quality Rating: 80.52

God Help the Child by Toni Morrison

What’s It About?

Sweetness is a light-skinned black woman married to a light-skinned black man. They’re so light-skinned that they can pass as whites, and they live in such a time that it is beneficial to do so. Everything is going perfectly in their relationship until Sweetness gives birth to a baby girl who has extremely dark skin. Embarrassed, her husband leaves her to raise the girl on her own.

As the little girl grows, she feels the constant contempt of her mother. When she is six years old, she falsely accuses a woman of child molestation and sends her to prison for fifteen years–simply because she wants to gain her mother’s approval. The moment she reaches adulthood, Bride–as she comes to call herself–abruptly leaves the mother by whom she’s always felt scorned.

As an adult, Bride has become incredibly successful as an entrepreneur in the beauty industry. She is in a serious relationship with a man whose past demons make it difficult for him to commit. When the man suddenly leaves her, Bride begins to investigate how her mother’s abuse has shaped her own disposition in life. As the story unfolds, child abuse is explored in a myriad of ways through the lens of several characters.

Should You Read It?

If you enjoy the prior work of Toni Morrison, this book–though set in the modern day–carries her signature style. The story is about racism–but not really about racism. It’s really about child abuse, and Sweetness’s contempt for the color of her daughter’s skin is just one of many examples in the novel of how children are exploited, abused, and ruined by the adults they trust. If this topic is important to you, you would probably find this book very helpful in understanding the impact abuse has on children as they claw their way into adulthood.

Links and References

Author Information: Wikipedia, The Toni Morrison Society

Book Reviews: New York Times, The Atlantic, The Guardian, LA Times

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Toni Morrison: Paradise (1997), Beloved (1987), The Bluest Eye (1970)

Book Review: Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Author: Stacey Lee
Title: Under a Painted Sky
Genre: Young Adult; Historical; Literary
Publication Date: March 17, 2015
Publisher: GP Putnam’s Sons (Random House)
Number of Pages: 384
Narrator: Samantha

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

What’s It About?

Samantha is the sixteen year old daughter of a Chinese immigrant living in mid-19th century Missouri. Trained in the violin, she has dreams of becoming a musician in an era that frowns upon female musicians and in a land that frowns upon non-white foreigners. Her father, with whom she is very close, has plans to move them out west to explore new possibilities in a land with less settlement and–as a result–less discrimination.

Then, in one moment, Samantha loses everything. She returns home one day to find the building in which she lived engulfed in flames–and her father trapped inside. Upon losing her father, her landlord takes pity on her and gives her a place to stay at his hotel. But what first appears to be pity soon shows itself as something else entirely.

Shortly after arriving at the hotel, Samantha is confronted by her landlord and told that she is responsible for the debt incurred by the loss of the building that had apparently burned due to her father’s negligence. To work off her debts, he informs her that he will be taking her in as a prostitute but, first, he needs to “test out the goods.” When he attempts to rape her, Samantha kills him.

Knowing she is sure to be put to death for the deed, Samantha goes on the run out west with a black slave girl from the hotel. To avoid suspicion, they disguise themselves as men heading out west in search of gold. As they journey along the Oregon Trail, they meet new friends and seek to avoid run-ins with the law as they claw their way to freedom.

Should You Read It?

If you enjoy a good young adult adventure story, you’ll love this book–particularly if you enjoy history of the American south or the American west. The author captures the racial tension of the time, as well as the early notion of the American Dream that transcended ethnic lines. The story can be likened to Huckleberry Finn–including the themes of travel, race, and companionship. If enjoy that sort of historical adventure story, I would definitely give this book a shot.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

Book Reviews: Kirkus Reviews, Pop Goes the Reader, The Social Potato

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Stacey Lee: Under a Painted Sky is Stacey Lee’s debut novel.

Book Review: Watch Me Go by Mark Wisniewski

Author: Mark Wisniewski
Title: Watch Me Go
Genre: Literary
Publication Date: January 2, 2015
Publisher: GP Putnam (Random House)
Number of Pages: 320
Narrators: Deesh and Jan
Amazon.com Reviewer Grade: B, Very Good; of the first 66 reviews, the average reader rating was 85.15%.

Watch Me Go by Mark Wisniewski

What’s It About?

Deesh (Douglas Sharp) is a 30-something year old absentee father doing odd jobs with a few friends from his high school basketball team. When he and his friends take a nice-paying job to remove a large drum from under a woman’s house, his world is turned upside down. Through a series of missteps, Deesh ends up being framed for three murders. As he discusses his actions with a court appointed attorney, he sees little hope of proving his innocence.

Jan is a young woman growing up in the culture of thoroughbred racing. As she develops a relationship with the son of a legendary jockey, she reveals that she herself wants to be jockey–even though she is a woman. As Jan learns more about the world of thoroughbred racing, though, she discovers a culture of corruption that ultimately leads to her losing someone she has grown to love dearly.

With each chapter told alternately through the eyes of Deesh and Jan, the relationship between the two narrators is tied together within the final few pages. Deesh may just get the chance to have his innocence proven, and Jan may find justice for the victims of the culture in which she lives.

Should You Read It?

If you like the kind of story that weaves together multiple seemingly unrelated stories in a dramatic conclusion, you’ll probably like this book. The mood that hovers over each narrative is grim–with both characters feeling stuck in the circumstances of their respective environments. Nevertheless, the novel ends on somewhat of a hopeful note. If you like a good character-driven work that builds up steadily to a dramatic climax, I would give this a shot.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Interview with Huffington Post, Interview with Examiner

Book Reviews: Star Tribune, Kirkus Reviews

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Mark Wisniewski: Show Up, Look Good (2011), All Weekend with the Lights On (2007), Confessions of a Polished Used Car Salesman (1997)