Monday, September 28, 2009

In the Falling Snow-Caryl Phillips

In the Falling Snow
Caryl Phillips
Knopf, Sep 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780307272560

Keith Gordon’s parents came from the West Indies settling in England where he was born in the early 1960s. He was raised by his white stepmother and is therefore comfortable with both races. Keith married a white Annabelle, whose family excommunicated her due to her marrying him but after two decades together they have been separated for two years now.

Recently Annabelle has become increasingly worried about their seventeen year old son Laurie who will not talk to his father as if his dad is at fault for the teen being biracial. At work Keith heads the London unit of Race Equality, but the social worker is under investigation as a subordinate has accused him of harassment; not that it matters much anymore as he has begin to conclude his work is meaningless. Filled with despondency while pondering is that all there is, Keith even considers what to do about his estrangement with his West Indies’ dad.

This is a super timely look at racial identification in a changing world as the EEO question of which race you belong to seems obsolete with the increasing number of bi-racial people. Keith is a terrific character who deliberates over his identity as a second generation Englishman who stands out in the snow white stereotype picture of his countrymen. His third generation offspring feels alienated and resentful even as his dad reflects who he is and is that all there is in life.

Harriet Klausner

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