. . . The black people in these films seemed to love the worst things in life – love the dogs that rent their children apart, the tear gas that clawed at their lungs, the fire-hoses that tore off their clothes and tumbled them into the streets. They seemed to love the men who raped them, the women who cursed them, love the children who spat on them, the terrorists that bombed them. Why are they showing this to us? Why were only our heroes nonviolent?
As with many English majors, my intellectual life was blighted early by a crude little theory, out-of-date even when I first encountered it, that children’s intellects fall naturally into two sorts: the math/science kid and the art/literature kid.
It is not enough to be against racism – one must be dedicated to the unmaking of whiteness itself. So we are often told, by scholars of race, by activists, by Christians working to make the church more Christlike.
Historical novels generally work by immersion. Like Pixar movies or the better sort of video game, they bludgeon you with detail, distracting you with endless small strange facts from any thought of the world as we know it. This is a perfectly sensible method, yet the layers and layers of explanation can implicitly acknowledge, and thus reinforce, the reader’s sense of distance from the very world into which these details initiate us.
I have, as a result of my engagement with Coakley, taken up silent prayer. Once or twice a week I derail my trains of thought, turn my cellphone off, and sit for twenty minutes, inviting God to work in and around me, but otherwise shutting up. I have not yet slain patriarchy at its root, but I have noticed a new sort of quiet confidence, a dawning belief that I do not have to earn a relationship with God through my own personal awesomeness. It’s not spectacular. But it’s also deeply unlike me – as subversive of my usual ways of operating as quiet in a prison cell. And it wouldn’t have happened had I not read Coakley.
I hate violence and I distrust all talk of “revolution.” But by the end of this book I not only wanted to occupy Wall Street, I wanted to destroy it with my bare hands.
“Fiction to me is a kind of parable,” she once said. “You have got to make up your mind it’s not true. Some kind of truth emerges from it.”