Monday, October 6, 2014

Kelly's Book 9.14: Arc of Justice

Dear Jenny,

Yes, yes -- I still have 4 other posts to write. But I also have 4 more books to read, so let me write a preview post on one of those: Arc of Justice by Kevin Boyle. I am about 40 pages into this book and just wanted to jot down some thoughts before I go any further.

First of all... I thought this book was fiction. Really paying a lot of attention to these books, eh? Sheesh.

My mother-in-law gave it to me a few years ago when it was the "Great Michigan Read" for 2012 (kind of a neat idea -- the whole state is essentially in a giant year-long "book group" together where everyone reads a single book written by a Michigan author). I've never participated in the "Great Michigan Read" but for some reason, I thought all of the books were fiction. They're not. This book is not. Nope. It's a true story.

We've talked before about how I don't read much non-fiction, so I am laughing at myself that I chose a book I thought was fiction but it's not. (Also! I have just realized the 4 of the books I have read this year are non-fiction! How did that happen?! Maybe that is why I am struggling to write about them? Hrmm.)

Didn't take me long to realize this was non-fiction -- the endnotes were a dead giveaway. (Ha) Aaaand they're also kind of annoying -- I always feel compelled to stop my reading and go straight to the endnotes. But in this case, they are literally *all* just sources, so I have done a good job of skimming straight over them. Go, me!

The subtitle (long subtitle -- another giveaway that this book would be non-fiction, right? Duh.) is " A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age."

It's a story about a black doctor who moves to an all-white neighborhood in Detroit in 1925, and then all hell breaks loose. I've actually already read that part, and it was difficult. Pretty much exactly what you would expect to happen, happens: Day after he and his family move in, a mob of white neighbors gather outside his house. As tensions mount, someone throws a rock through the window and one of his friends fires a shot into the crowd, killing one white person and injuring another. He and everyone in his house are immediately arrested and taken away. It's a bad scene. (And made me think "1925 or... 2014?" Which is just f*cking depressing.)

Once I realized this was non-fiction, I recalled that I actually do know some of this story. The man's name is Ossian Sweet. As I recall, against all odds, he was acquitted. I'm curious now how that all goes down because, honestly, it seems like an unlikely outcome.

As a side note, this book also won the National Book Award in 2004 and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Sooo... has everyone and their brother heard of this book while I'm all, "Oh, my MIL recommended this book to me so I guess I'll read it. (La-la-la...)?" Probably. And now the Internet knows. Heh.



  1. Yeah, writing about non-fiction is super hard. The narrative non-fiction that's more popular these days, focusing in on one story as a lens to a bigger problem does work better for me than other books. I think that's my Postwar problem. It's really pretty much straight history---which is super hard to read when you don't know *anything*. Right now, the chapter I'm on is about the rapid decolonization of Africa after WW2, and my head is swimming with names and acronyms.

    This one you're reading does sound like it will give you valuable insight into the city of Detroit. As you say, some things never seem to change. Sad.

    More posting more often FTW!

    1. Well, of course all of my non-fiction reading is narrative. Hahaha. Can't imagine sitting through straight up history (Oh. That is probably why I have never been able to finish Don't Know Much About History. Ha!)

      I guess I just feel like I have more to "report" when it's a true story... wonder why that is. I guess it's because I usually learn a lot when I read non-fiction and when I learn things, I want to share them!

      And with fiction, I feel like there's more opportunity to just say "I liked/didn't like this story and here's why." With non-fiction, it's not as much about liking/not liking the "story" (because the story is just what it is -- it happened) but it's all about the writing and how it was presented and... getting tired just thinking about this. Heh.

      So this is an interesting thing I have never really given any thought to before: the differences between reviewing/reporting on (or whatever we do here... just "writing about") fiction vs. non-fiction. Hrm.