Black, white and shades of grey – the tale of two Christmas reads

Christmas is a great time for many things, not least for yielding some concentrated reading time.  Unlike the last few years where my reading has been done in front of a log fire, or less romantically, under a duvet and within (literally) 3 layers of clothing, this Christmas the reading was done sometimes outside on a beach and sometimes inside lying in front of a fan trying to escape the suffocating heat.

Over the break, I read God Help the Child, by Toni Morrison and then The Green Road, by Anne Enright. Literary giants in their respective countries, the author’ pretexts for these novels couldn’t be more different. In Morrison’s book the protagonist, Bride, is ‘ebony-black and panther-like’, to the extent that her own mother can’t tolerate her: ‘It didn’t take more than an hour after they pulled her out from between my legs to realize something was wrong. 

Poverty and choice in the Glass Castle

How we define poverty and attribute its causes will largely be determined by our political tendencies. Those with right-wing affiliations tend to see poverty as a result of personal choice:  people in poverty choose to have drug dependencies or enter into destructive relationships or, though a series of bad personal choices, end up in low paying jobs.  People on the left pin it on structural causes where society in general, and capitalism in particular, have failed its citizens.  The Glass Castle is a powerful exposition of this debate, and through excellent storytelling we’re compelled to reflect on the relationship between poverty and choice, as well as the bonds that hold families together.