Friday, 4 May 2007

One fiction and one nonfiction

Finished May 4
Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, read by Stanley Tucci
This is the first fiction that I've read by Vonnegut (having previously read his Man Without a Country and loved it). I'm not sure that I would have wanted to read more of him if this had been my first. It is very surreal. I liked some of the themes, like the environmental one with the pollution of Sugar Creek. Others, like the stating of every male's penis size and every female's measurements didn't help the book to make sense for me. The "and so on" which the narrator explains the use of was an interesting effect once you caught on to it. I think it is his sense of the absurd which is so startling. I found the book grew on my a bit after I finished it, the more I thought about it.

Finished May 3
Tell the Court I Love My Wife: Race, Marriage, and Law--An American History by Peter Wallenstein
Using the case of Richard and Mildred Loving who lived in Virginia (which had a miscegenation law) but married in Washington, D.C. (which had no such law) and who were arrested in their own bedroom in Virginia in 1958 a few weeks after they got married, Wallenstein takes a close look at the history of race and marriage in the United States.
He goes back to the 17th century to the first miscegenation laws of the country, through the addition of more as blacks became more numerous in the country. He continues through the Civil War and Reconstruction and shows how the laws disappeared and then reappeared. He also shows how more states added miscegenation laws and included other races besides black in the restrictions, how the definitions changed from 1/4 black to a single drop.
Even thought the Lovings won their case at the US Supreme Court in 1967 and due to the various briefs submitted by friends of the court, like the Japanese American Citizens League, the decision made all miscegenation laws across the states unconstitutional, it was not until 2000 that the last miscegenation law (in Alabama) came off the books. Others still fought battles, but they didn't last long and they always won.
I found it fascinating, and especially liked the cases stated here that made the reader see how it affected people in real ways.

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