This one is hard to review. Smith’s story is not bad or uninteresting or poorly written, but it just didn’t speak to me. While there were familiar elements in her story, whether to my own experience or other books I’ve already read, there was not much that made it really stand out.
In the world of personal experiences, I don’t consider this a bad thing. Yes, she experiences great loss, but also acknowledges that loss, even at a young age, is a part of life. It is unfortunate, but true, and I don’t know many who have not been touched by it in some way.
Every person and their loss is different though, and the experiences leading up to it is different, which shapes how they understand and deal with it. It was these chapters I found most interesting, not that I’m into the pain or misfortune of others. I find the way that it affects us interesting, especially when family members have such different reactions. It was Smith’s honesty in what she felt towards her family members and acquaintances as they did or did not reflect the amount of grief she found appropriate. I find this to be among the sets of thoughts I believe we all have but that are still not talked about openly and therefore not usually resolved well when these things happen. Family members end up upset and hurt by each other and their responses.
The coming of age part of her story was well told, but again, it didn’t particularly speak to me. There were some entertaining moments, like her unfortunate Halloween costume. Our experiences are different but I’ve learned enough about racism (which I have experienced too, but I mean the system and the way it works, not the personal experience) to understand her frustrations with both the people around her and learning more about how it worked.
I was also raised on the idea that the world is a meritocracy and was disturbed to find all the bias, conscious or not, that would plague me throughout my own career. It isn’t as pronounced as I’ve heard of others experiencing, and I’ve been around more racism than what has been directed at me. For me, its been mostly bias against women in tech or leadership/management, but there has also been bias for being just Hispanic enough to be not-white for most of my life unless I’m around Hispanic people who mostly have the same reaction in the opposite direction and exclude me for my partial but evident whiteness.
Its confusing but I end up in the same circles where people are comfortable enough to say racist things and think I won’t be offended or irritated because I am excluded from the group of Hispanics that they are talking about due to behaviors I don’t share but that no one should have a problem with in the first place. But they do and I find it equally irritating. I guess that was the real reason I find it to be a good book but not especially interesting. Its so much about all the same irritations I’ve dealt with, at length, but not so much that I felt like she was in my head, like when I read Rebecca Walker’s Black White and Jewish. She was totally in my head about the feelings of being neither and both.
To get back to my original point, Smith’s story is well written and has a lot of good content about heart break and loss and racism and religion and the human experience. I just didn’t find it especially compelling.
I borrowed Ordinary Light from my library but it can be purchased too. Click on the cover to be redirected to BookLikes for options or add to Goodreads for later. This was my Letter O for Litsy A to Z.