My rating: 5 of 5 stars
If this was my story, I don’t know that I would be so eloquent and calm. I’d have lost my mind completely, a mental wreck! But for the grace of my white skin…
But it’s Maxine Beneba Clarke’s story, and she brings an enviable sense of love, forgiveness, and gratefulness to an otherwise shameful array of ‘harmless teasing’ and blatant violence inflicted upon her and others. She is the true miracle of this story.
This is how it changes us. This is how we’re altered.
Hers is the memoir by which all others should be judged. It sets the bar for what is important and relevant enough in a person’s life to be shared with others, now more so than ever given recent changes in world politics.
And yet for all its seriousness, it’s a beautiful tale, an absolute joy that I stayed up all night to read in one session because I didn’t want it to end (I cried a good proper cry when it did).
Clarke uses a perfectly balanced repetition to make me feel what she feels and displays an impeccable sense of timing, particularly poignant in the last chapter where she undergoes profound personal change; and she exploits a striking pair of rare qualities by saying everything she needs to say before stopping at exactly the right moment.
This is how we shame it. How we make it break.
This story needs to be mandatory reading, in every grade and every year until we get it – as individuals; as leaders and politicians; as parents, friends, and colleagues; and as strangers.
We choose how and when history should be written, and I hope we choose this story over so many others that sugarcoat how we really behave.
May all your classrooms and playgrounds be kept safe.
Maxine – thank you for your courage. You are beautiful.