By: Carol Culver Rzadkiewicz
I wanted to like Separate But Equal.
And I hate to say it, but in another author’s hands this might have been a good book. But Rzadkiewicz just isn’t that author. And I mean that with the utmost respect, because writing a novel is hard, and writing a novel about racism is impossibly hard. So I have a lot of empathy for Rzadkiewicz.
But the novel falls short.
It’s poorly written, in the syntax of modern day chick-lit, or maybe teen lit. It’s overly simplified. Rzadkiewicz refuses to let you miss the point, in the worst way possible. There’s an elegance to allusions, to irony, that Rzadkiewicz just doesn’t have. She doesn’t want to tell you something, but gives you so many hints and stresses the issue so many times that it’s literally impossible to misunderstand or gloss over.
And I have a few issues with the subject matter of the book as well. For a book that’s dealing with the disgusting complexities of Southern racism during the Civil Rights Movement, it doesn’t really do justice to the black perspective. I understand that Rzadkiewicz made a deliberate choice to focus on how the Civil Rights Movement affected a white child, but to call the book Separate But Equal seems a little cheap for a book with a total of one black major character.
This is definitely not the first book I would recommend to anybody, mostly because of the style of writing. I also think that if you’re reading this for the subject matter, you’re going to be disappointed. But that’s not to say that Rzadkiewicz doesn’t offer up a compelling story.
So it’s not a totally worthless read. It’s just not really a great one either.
Am I wrong? I’m open to changing my mind. But I’m going to need some serious convincing.
If you liked Separate But Equal, try one of these:
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Known World by Edward P. Jones
Christy by Catherine Marshall
Freshwater Road by Denise Nicholas
Storming Heaven by Denise Giardina
Why We Can’t Wait by Martin Luther King, Jr.