Follow Up on Looking for Alaska and John Green

I've really enjoyed the discussion about John Green's Looking for Alaska and coincidentally it just debuted on the NY Times bestsellers list. I almost didn't finish it because of my interpretation of page 48. Here it is and a little set up: the narrator is new at this boarding school and at his first basketball game with his roommate the Colonel.

I wanted to abandon the book but these posts on Facebook helped me decide to keep reading.

And when I posted the blog there was more discussion both in the blog comments and on Facebook.
So then I set out to connect with Looking for Alaska author John Green. I found his twitter and since it was an active account with tweets by him, I wrote these:
I didn't hear back from him so I followed up with these:
And a while later, he responded! 
So I replied
but I didn't hear anything back. Hm. So what now? If he didn't think the characters were black, is it still racist? Another Facebook discussion ensued which brought me some closure on the whole thing. 

Whew. That was so fun! If you participated, thank you! If you waded through all of that, thank you too! If you care to weigh in on the topic, comment away...


Looking for Alaska, and finding my brain!

It's been a while since my last post mostly because I'm not sure what to blog about these days. So much of my life is caught up in being a new mother, and there are so many brilliant mommy blogs out there, I'm not sure my little tidbits are necessary to the conversation. So, for now, I'll keep my mommy-musings minimal although they may warrant a blog post every so often.

That's why I was so excited when I picked up Looking for Alaska, a YA novel by John Green, and I read twenty pages! In one sitting! My post-partum brain, it still worked. And then I read another 20, but then I came across a paragraph on page 48 and I stopped. The narrator had been a pretty stand-up kid, trying to find himself like most high school kids, but this one paragraph made me stop. So, I posted this question in Twitter and Facebook: "The narrator of Looking for Alaska, a YA book I'm reading, just revealed he's racist although he would deny it. Do I keep reading?"

I loved the conversation which followed and I decided to finish the book because I had been enjoying it, until that paragraph. I hoped at some point the narrator might revisit his misguided thoughts, but as I suspected, that paragraph, that racist paragraph, just sat there, and I chalked it up to character development. I mean, I guess it shouldn't surprise me that a white, middle class kid from Florida would exhibit racism. So I read, and I enjoyed this kid's quest for the Great Perhaps and how he seeks to escape the labyrinth of suffering. But after finishing the book, when I look back at that one paragraph, I think the author was revealing his racism.

I also wasn't sure why it bothered me so much. Why did this paragraph make me want to abandon a book I'd been previously enjoying? I've forgiven poorly written paragraphs, misogynistic paragraphs, wasted paragraphs that should have just been deleted, so why did this racist graph bug me so much? Well, I think, in part, because it is an extremely familiar form of racism, the kind I encountered too often growing up in Bend. Someone I really liked, a friend, a classmate, would say something racist and I'd have to decide how to handle it. Should I call them on their racist comment or say nothing and remember, oh, so-and-so is racist and begin to silently hate them? I usually called people on things which didn't garner many popularity points, but now, twenty years after leaving Bend and a couple of weeks after my high school reunion, I've forgiven and forgotten racist comments my former classmates might have made (although I've been known to hide racist "friends" on Facebook). And as for John Green, I'll be writing him to ask why he chose to include this paragraph in Looking for Alaska. 

"Unfortunately for the Culver Creek Nothings, we weren't playing the deaf-and-blind school. We were playing some Christian school from downtown Birmingham, a team stocked with huge, gargantuan apemen with thick beards and a strong distaste for turning the other cheek" (48). 

But mostly, I'm celebrating the return of my brain.