Everybody’s Son: Half Novel, Half Explainer

I’m undecided about Thirty Umbrigar’s Everybody’s Son. On the one hand it tells the compelling story of the theft/adoption of an African-American boy by a uber-privileged white family; and in telling the story explores – pretty directly (okay, sometimes too directly) privilege. So yeah, that’s the other hand: the novel seems entirely unsure whether the reader will ‘get it’ and so spends altogether too much time telling the reader exactly what it’s about. There’s a scene where our protagonist, Anton (the adopted boy) is pulled over by a white police officer and he has a moment of ‘revelation’ in understanding the way power and privilege works in the moment. He even has a handy girlfriend who explains to Anton/the reader the ways in which he has internalized a white gaze and has silenced and suppressed any interest in his birth mother and history. It’s also pretty clear from early in the novel what the climax will be, which is sort of… anticlimactic.

That said it takes a few interesting questions: how do wealth and race (pre)determine the outcome of our lives/those of our children? Do the ends justify the means in raising children? How are individuals implicated in state systems (e.g. judicial systems, education systems) that work to disadvantage and discriminate? And while the treatment of these questions might be a bit direct for this reader, the exploration is nevertheless worthwhile and engaging.

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Filed under American literature, Fiction

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