by Reginald D. Jarrell
Book Review by Jim Potter
Can you tell a book by its cover? This is a question that author Reginald D. Jarrell addresses in his just published book, 31 Days (Nights): Memoir of Living Black in America (Blue Cedar Press, 2022).
The question is a theme in Jarrell’s memoir as he revisits his life as a Black man growing up in a country where the color of a person’s skin causes people, mostly Caucasian, to prejudge. Jarrell also makes it clear that the real issue has never been his color or his race, it’s been about “them,” those with a problem of accepting people as people.
Speaking in generalities, I’m curious what demographic will most warmly welcome 31 Days (Nights). Will people of color appreciate Jarrell’s personal experiences because they identify, having walked in his shoes? Will potential readers, targets of hate, see the book as an affirmation of surviving their own day-to-day struggles while encountering prejudice? Will people of color welcome the author’s memories? Or will they feel like they have their own painful, real-life stories, and prefer—for their own mental health—to avoid being reminded of past—even present—wrongs?
I appreciate 31 Days (Nights) because, like any memoir, it’s personal. Jarrell’s stories are American history. In textbooks and on video, we can learn about racism and the Civil Rights Movement, but it takes true-life stories to give the world-wide racial picture a heartbeat in living color.
In today’s politically and culturally divided world, it’s clear that most people seek out others who support their worldview. I imagine people who support equal rights, especially racial equality, will welcome 31 Days (Nights) as a valuable example of the wrongs that need righted.
I also expect that those people who believe systemic and institutional racism doesn’t exist, or that it ever existed, won’t have the slightest interest in the read because it won’t support their belief system.
31 Days (Nights) isn’t for everyone, but I found it exceptionally well-done. It’s a reminder of how far we’ve come as a society, and unfortunately, how far we still have to go.
Reginald Jarrell is a member of District 5.
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