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Books to Share on Race and Ethnicity

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Latest update: May 9, 1999
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The White Boy Shuffle
by Paul Beatty. Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1996.

Brief review by jeanne until others from the site begin to come in.

A word of caution. This book uses four letter words. DO NOT give it to young children. Both the language and the subject matter are heavy. So why did we still recommend it for this sharing with young people? Because a mature adolescent, who is not a stranger to four letter words, and who has begun to ask questions about race and inequality and inclusion and exclusion, and who made and makes the rules, will find some thoughtful reading.

These are not the usual answers. Beatty is a poet, writes and thinks like a poet. These may not be the ultimate answers to the problem of difference and status in a world that still pays considerable attention to color. But they are creative answers. There are more questions than answers, more searching than knowing. And that is very Habermasian in an approach to discourse in this modern or postmodern world. Beatty addresses the need for forums, the power of storytelling, the possibilities for new ways of describing and knowing the world.

This book should be shared according to the maturity in critical thinking of the person approaching it, not by chronological age. Please be concerned for those with whom you share it. It can be, and should be, disturbing. But it can also be comforting, if one is willing to question and to dare to pose new paths to answers.

May 7, 1999.

Added on May 9, 1999:

On p. 34, Beatty describes the young people's vision of escape from the cloying rules and institutions that surround them: "We'd make plans to spend the weekend at the beach, sunning in the shoreline's warm chromatics and filling in childhood's abstract impressionism coloring books with our own definitions of color, trying our hardest not to stay inside the lines."

Can you relate this passage to rules, rules, everywhere, and no one to hear you cry? Theory: Look at the passages on "They ain't us" and "duh." The file, alfiek.htm has some references, as does the file aintus.htm.

Can you relate this passage to the story of colors? Can color, like logic, be perceived differently? Differently from what? Whose perspective? Whose call? Theory: Look at tolerance of ambiguity as a universal principle, and to the Teaching Tolerance site for how such concepts enter into Habermasian discourse, such as we seek to establish.