“If I got a special life to plan, then I’m in a pickle cause nobody told me and I don’t know the first thing bout how.”
Sadie Blue, p.212
if the creek don’t rise
I don’t know Leah Weiss, but we’re both originally from North Carolina — something I learned when I picked up her book. It was sitting there on the shelf next to a handful of other “new releases,” and I was fresh off a deep-dive into Appalachian everything, so the title grabbed my eye.
During my first read of Weiss’ novel, I had difficulty. It took me about 50 pages to get the voice of her characters properly situated. Some of the language they used, I was familiar with. Some of it, I was not. Truth be told, I was wholly unprepared for this book, which is an interesting place to be. It leaves you ready to learn.
Over the course of some heartbreakingly human events, Weiss shares important lessons that we’d all do well to ponder more — or at least differently:
(1) We’ve got to do better about ensuring that all people have access to opportunity, but we can’t lose sight of the importance of basic needs — food, water, safety, shelter and love — in the process.
(2) We’ve got to do better about being aware of our motivations. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a stronger lens on this more of the time? This isn’t to say that we’d necessarily make different decisions, but maybe we would, if we knew what we were really after in life, and how that affects others around us.
(3) We’ve got to do better about NOT believing that cultures can or should civilize other cultures. There’s much we can learn from each other — we are all students, we are all teachers, and we’d all do well to listen at least as much as we speak.
(4) We’ve got to do better about remembering that there’s more than one side to every story. This includes being aware of power dynamics that enable one narrative or a series of narratives to dominate over others.
On that note, I’d encourage y’all to spend some time with the residents of Baines Creek. They may not have all the answers, but they ask questions that matter. And you don’t find that everywhere.
P.S. For those interested in a deeper dive, I’d recommend starting with:
This book review from NPR/Book Reviews.
This interview with The News & Advance.