Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Everybody's Son by Thrity Umrigar

I had heard very little about this book when I started reading it, it is our book club's selection for January. I borrowed it from a friend who said she and the rest of her book club had really enjoyed it, so I was excited to get started.

This is the story of Anton, who as a 9-year old boy is left alone in an apartment by his mother, Juanita, during an incredible heat wave. She leaves to buy drugs and is kept by her dealer for 7 days. Anton is alone the whole time in the sweltering apartment with little to no food. After he breaks a window to get out, he is taken into protective custody and placed in a foster home.

His foster parents have recently lost their own son in a car accident and are thrilled to have Anton in their lives. David, his foster father, is a judge and has connections that can help keep Juanita in prison longer to allow Anton to stay in his home. When the time comes for Juanita to be released, what should happen to Anton? Where does he belong?

As an African American child being raised by white parents, Anton thrives but sometimes feels like he doesn't quite belong. As he heads to university his girlfriend causes him to question who he is and where he belongs. Is he the whitest black man, or the blackest white man? These are words that haunt him into adulthood.

Anton follows in his father's footsteps and ends up in a career in the law. But there is a lot he doesn't know about his past and as he learns more he begins to question who he really is.

This book raises some excellent questions. Which is the better home for the boy? In poverty with his mother who has made bad choices but truly loves him, or in his lavish home with his foster family who can afford to provide what she never could? Who gets to make that decision? What role does race play in it? White privilege, institutional racism and poverty are all themes. I was reminded again of how I can never truly understand what challenges people of other races and cultures face that I will never have to even consider. It is a challenging read in that light, and especially in view of all that is happening in today's world. It is beautifully written and a very compelling story.

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