It’s 2010 census time, and controversy has erupted over which boxes to check for “race” — or whether one should check any at all.
Rachel, the heroine of Heidi Durrow‘s The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, could relate. The daughter of a Danish mother and an African-American G.I., a family tragedy puts her under the thumb of her strict African American grandmother. She moves uncomfortably in a new world where blue eyes and light brown skin are attention grabbers.
The book has already bagged one award: the Bellweather Prize for Literature of Social Change. The prize’s founder, writer Barbara Kingsolver, called it “a breathless telling of a tale we’ve never heard before. Haunting and lovely, pitch-perfect.” Joan Silber, author of The Size of the World, called it “a remarkable novel … Its core story about a mother’s desperate act recalls the insights of a writer no less than Toni Morrison. Durrow writes fearlessly about race, family, and memory — she is a writer to watch.”
The local community will have a chance to do precisely that tonight, when Durrow gives a reading at 5.30 p.m. at the Stanford Bookstore and tomorrow night, 7.30 p.m. at Kepler’s. Beforehand, she’ll also be doing “a conversation over Sprinkles Cupcakes” at 4 p.m. (in CSRE Conference Room, Bldg. 360 at Stanford — for those not at Stanford, it’s off the Main Quad).
The publisher says the story is inspired by “true events.”
Durrow’s resume is substantial: She’s a graduate of Stanford University, Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, and Yale Law School. She has won the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition, the Chapter One Fiction Contest, and the Roth Endowment Award and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has received grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the American Scandinavian Foundation, and a Fellowship for Emerging Writers from the Jerome Foundation. She is cofounder and coproducer of the Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival.
Durrow isn’t the only one thinking about biracial issues: check out Michele Elam’s article at the Huffington Post here.