It’s not too late to take part in the book discussion of King of Shadows. So if, like me, you forgot about it yesterday, you can still go and add your two cents in the comments.
I’ll also remind you that I will be hosting the next Carnival here in February. I’ll shoot for a submission date of February 15th and upload on February 20th. You may submit a post to my email (click the button at the bottom of my blogroll) or at the Carnival site. I’m not going to set a theme, as February is full of them without my picking just one. So, send your posts on love, Black History Month, presidents, and groundhogs. Or cold weather. Or snow. You get the picture.
Today is the blog birthday of A Fuse #8 Production, and I wanted to get Fusie something special besides writing out her whole blog name. But what to get for the blogger who has everything?
So I give the gift of debate. She liked The Road to Paris and as it turns out, I didn’t. It is rare that I don’t agree with Fuse on books. In this case, I’m also going against just about everybody who read this book, given that it won a Coretta Scott King Honor Award.
My feeling is that Nikki Grimes wrote a fictionalized account of her own experience as a foster child who finds a good placement in a caring home. It’s probably a good story. But if you’re going to write about something that happened in the sixties/seventies, say that. Fuse mentioned how the lack of current slang made it feel like it could have happened yesterday or years ago. But I felt like the book was firmly placed in the past, which is fine, but then just say that.
Several things didn’t ring true for me for this time. When the teacher has the kids exchange Valentine cards, she doesn’t make the kids give one to everyone. Generally, schools don’t do that anymore. The street in a suburb of NYC has only three black families in neighborhood of white families. Really, in Ossining, a suburb of NYC? The kids seem completely thrown by Paris’s skin color. Again, really? In a metropolitan area? Who brings milk money? Waxed paper wrapped around her sandwich? Hello, plastic baggies. Nat King Cole came on the radio enough that it’s her mother’s favorite song. The photographs that were taken at Easter are black and white.
But here’s the kicker: When the dad of her friend sees her hanging outside the door, he calls her the n-word. That seems like something out of the sixties, especially when the mom shoos Paris away seeming scared of the dad. I’m not saying that there isn’t racism and that people don’t still use the n-word. But the scene doesn’t play right for this era. Then Paris gets mad at her friend for not sticking up for her in front of her dad. But it’s obvious that the mom is even afraid of the dad; why wouldn’t her friend also be afraid of being hit by the dad? You’d think that Paris would know what it’s like to be stuck in that situation, but she writes her friend off completely.
The story was fine, as a sixties story, but I thought that having the end of the story as the first chapter added a strangely false conflict. Would Paris feel bad about leaving this new, nice foster family to take a chance on her mom? Sure. Would she really have a serious debate about it or for that matter, a choice? I don’t know about that. I would rather have seen a more straightforward approach, more year-in-the-life, than building tension about what Paris was going to do next. I feel like the author who everyone knows as a good writer was too close to the subject. Or maybe she needed a stronger editor who could have mentioned that if you’re going to write a book that takes place in the sixties, you might want put the time period in the book and not make your readers guess.
Unfortunately, Fuse#8’s review was taken off her site in the whole Newbery Committee vs. Bloggers episode, but it lives on at the bottom of the Amazon review. She enjoyed the book, and the ambiguity of the resolution. She saw the book as more timeless since there weren’t references to current slang or technology. Anyone else have an opinion about the book? Or more specifically, can a book be timeless or is it always set in some time period by intention or design?