50 LIBROS/ 50 BOOKS: Mujeres y sus historias.
to Cheryl Howard,
who shares tea, stories, books, yarn, life
Before my friend Cheryl moved to Mimbres I used to visit her every Friday, we had sweet tea and long conversations. It was probably on one of those afternoons when I told her about the book I wanted to write. “See, it will be about a girl that this and that… and I want to create this and that” (sorry, I am saving the secrets of my work in progress!). Anyway, days or weeks later Cheryl gave my son this book and said: tell your mom to read it. I was going through the crazy stress of my thesis, so it took me a few days until I could finally sit down and start the book.
The girl who fell from the sky came to me pretty much from the sky, the sky of books that Cheryl owns; it lead me to the sad and yet wonderful story of Rachel a girl that, indeed, fell from the sky and survived, a girl that falls in many ways so many other times and tries to survives without knowing it.
Rachel, was born from a Danish mother and a Black American G.I., looks different to the eyes of others and she knows it, she knows the “dangers” of it: “I don’t ever mention that I’m related to white people. And most of the time I try not to let the black girls like Tamika see me talk to Tracy, because Tracy is a white girl. And the way they say that –white girl—it feels like a dangerous thing to be”.
White is a dangerous thing to be? Yes, it is, it is when you are neither white nor black and live in the black community where Rachel was taken to live after the accident. Adopted by her grandmother and her aunt, this girl is forced into a world she hasn’t seen or lived before, a world she only half-hears… oh, have I mentioned yet that when falling from the sky she not only lost her family but the ability to hear with both ears? Rachel, though, lingers, tries hard to be strong: “I don’t like it when I surprise myself by crying. The only time I do it really is when I wake up from a nightmare”.
This is the first novel by Heidi W. Durrow and in it she gives each character a saying about what happen to Rachel’s family before and after “falling” from the sky. Each of these characters becomes an important piece for the puzzle. Furthermore: the interwoven voices in this polyphonic form allow the reader to see more beyond a family tragedy, it reveals the issues of identity, race, family, loss, –issues which stay tight in our society– that Rachel and those around her have to face.
Durrow follows the tradition of authors like Jamaica Kincaid, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker and Maya Angelou and creates her own portrait of a young girl who deals face to face with the sometimes painful process of growing up, the burden of being different.
Rachel may not hear well but her author certainly does, this novel taught me something I want to develop in my own writing, an ear for the voices nobody actually hears. Cheryl was right: I had to read this book