LIKE NO OTHER by Una LaMarche

Please note: My “Reading Reflections” are not reviews. They are simply my thoughts in response to certain passages.

Like No Other As part of We Heart YA, I recently joined a diversity-focused YA book club, with the goal of putting my money where my mouth is and further supporting #WeNeedDiverseBooks. Our first selection was LIKE NO OTHER, a modern-day Romeo & Juliet story set in Brooklyn, featuring a Hasidic Jewish girl and a West Indian boy. The book resonated deeply with me, due to my own experiences with interracial relationships, and due to what was going on while I was reading. You can learn more about the book and its elements of diversity in this Q&A with author Una LaMarche.

Everything that this child is starts right now. The country, the city, the neighborhood, the block, the house — every detail of where babies are born begins to set their path in life, begins to shape them into who they’ll be. A newborn doesn’t choose its family, its race, its religion, its gender, or even its name. So much is already decided. So much is already written.

This quote is loaded. It could spawn a whole post by itself. It makes me think about all the paths that were laid out before me, all the balls set into motion, long before I was born. And before my parents were born. Before my friends were born. Before my own children will be born.

It also reminds me of the idealistic notion that everyone is equal. In terms of inherent value, that’s true. But in terms of equal footing, equal playing field? Unfortunately not. That’s why the idea of privilege is such a hot topic lately.

I am ashamed that my selfishness has caused me to miss a moment I’ll never get back — even if it also created a moment I’ll never forget.

This is the double-edged sword of selfishness. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, sometimes it’s both.

If left to her own devices, Devorah would never be anybody but herself. It would never even occur to her. Other people put on disguises every single day — brand-name clothes to make them seem cooler than they are, makeup to cover up their flaws, personas carefully cultivated to make them more popular — but Devorah never does. She is always, almost helplessly, genuine. And that is endearing as hell.

I strive to be this kind of person. Natural, genuine. It’s not as easy as one might think. There are a million voices, a thousand pressures. Magazines, marketing, trends. All trying to sell you something, shift your perceptions, change your priorities. It’s hard to tune out and listen only to yourself. (Especially when self, as mentioned earlier, is actually formed by a lot of factors that are outside your control.)

She’s trapped by too few choices, while I feel trapped by too many. It’s too bad we can’t share some choices and even it out.

This is the double-edged sword of choices. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re bad, sometimes they’re both.

“It’s easier for you. You can pass back and forth. I’m afraid that if I leave, I won’t ever be welcome home again. And I don’t hate it, you know?” Her chin trembles as tears fill her rain-cloud eyes. “My family is everything to me, and there’s so much I love… I want to be able to have both. You and them.”

This is the double-edged sword of family. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, sometimes it’s both.

Okay, that’s probably getting old.

It’s true, though. Most things in life aren’t black or white. They’re black, and white, and every shade of gray in between.

I have to take control and make a choice. But there is no choice that will bring all of my fragmented soul together. No matter what I decide… part of me will be forever lost.

A rock and a hard place. A game without a winner. (Which is subtly, but significantly, different from a game without a loser.) I’ve been there before. I’ll probably be there again. Is this what adulthood means? It’s not fun.

“She was my mother, and I felt her sadness like it was my own.”

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5 Comments

  1. “A newborn doesn’t choose its family, its race, its religion, its gender, or even its name. So much is already decided. So much is already written.”

    I think this is why at least half of my characters are living under names that they made up. This was not a plan, but it worked out that way — probably because that’s often the first step with realizing that you can work to change the other things, if you want to. Even gender, which was the one immutable one when I was growing up, is now subject to change.

    “But in terms of equal footing, equal playing field? Unfortunately not. That’s why the idea of privilege is such a hot topic lately.”

    Nero Wolfe once said that the paradox was that “All men are created equal” was obviously, provably untrue, but it was still absolutely worth fighting and dying for,

    • “Even gender, which was the one immutable one when I was growing up, is now subject to change.”

      Heh. It’s so interesting how things evolve.

      ““All men are created equal” was obviously, provably untrue, but it was still absolutely worth fighting and dying for.”

      Couldn’t agree more.

  2. Actually, “immutable” was not accurate. There have always been people who did their best to transition in one way or another. I remember one fairly well-known (male) jazz musician in the 20th century who, on his death, was discovered to have been born a woman.

    But when I was young it was never talked about, and I’m sure most people who were in that situation back then thought they were the first and only person to ever feel that way and they had to invent their own solutions from scratch.

    • I’m curious, which musician?

      “thought they were the first and only person to ever feel that way and they had to invent their own solutions from scratch”

      Yeah. That’s such a lonely thing. I hate that so many people have felt that way, especially about something as deep and personal as their own identities. I believe, and I’m glad, that our societies are moving toward greater acceptance, so that people won’t have to struggle so painfully.

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