3. Five Smooth Stones

You know how in some online profiles you can list your favorite this or that? When it gets to books, I often have trouble listing my favorites. I don’t want to sound uneducated, so I leave out anything by Stephen King (although I think he’s a damn good writer). I usually just list authors (Neil Gaiman, John Irving) and rarely list individual books. At the book fair one year, when we had the opportunity to list the book that most influenced us or something like that, Clare reminded me how much I liked In Cold Blood. She was right, I did like it, but it was not the book that influenced me most.

Five Smooth StonesThe serious (as opposed to fantasy) book that probably changed the way I saw the world was a book that, as far as I know, not a lot of people have ever heard of. I think my mom read it and suggested I read it (hmm, I guess she did read when I was at home). The book was Five Smooth Stones by Ann Fairbairn and was about an interracial couple in the 1960’s. It was the first time I’d read anything about race. The first time I read about the civil rights movement. The first time I read a book about interracial marriage.

I don’t remember a lot about the story. A white woman (whose name escapes me now)  meets David, an African-American med student from New Orleans. They fall in love and marry. They are both involved, I believe, in the civil rights movement. Bad things happen. Lots of bad things — the book is very long.

One thing about the book I do remember is David’s father or grandfather. I must have pictured him or Ms Fairbairn must have described him so well, he became alive to me and whenever I think about him forget he was part of a book, and think I actually knew him.

After reading this book I spent several years being ashamed of being white. While that’s not necessarily a good way to live — being ashamed of the skin you’re wearing — it certainly changed the way I looked at race relations in the United States. It made me a lot more critical of my fellow white US citizens and made me look at my own prejudices and figure out ways to change.

So I suppose Five Smooth Stones was a sort of epiphany or at least a turning point in my life. I don’t know if I’ll ever re-read this book — I could, I have at least two copies of it — but it will stand as one of the most important books I’ve ever read.

April 18, 2010. Tags: , . 1974, 5 star, fiction, life-changing, would recommend.

3 Comments

  1. Eulalia Benejam Cobb (Lali) replied:

    Congratulations on your brave new blog. 365 books–I can’t remember reading that many, though I’m sure I have. Write–and read–away, Waxwing!

  2. Bridgett replied:

    I love your honesty in your posts. It always rings so true (duh, I know, honesty ringing true…)

  3. Mali replied:

    I love this. Books that change our lives, or open our eyes. Fantastic.

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