Sunday, December 22, 2013

"Seeing Red"

Seeing Red, National Book Award winner Kathryn Erskine's latest novel, is a story of family, friendship, and race relations in the South.

Erskine applied the Page 69 Test to Seeing Red and reported the following:
This scene is between Red, the main character, and his whiney younger brother, J, once their distraught Mom has to run an errand.
With a shaky hand she grabbed J’s Flintstone’s glass from the cabinet, opened the fridge, and poured him some milk. “Here,” she said, sticking it in his hand so hard some milk sloshed over his wrist. “I need to drive Beau home, and I’ll figure out what to feed you when I get back.”

The screen door slapped behind her while J stared at the glass in his hand. “I don’t drink milk,” he said in a small voice. He stared at the screen door. “Don’t you remember, Mama?” He looked at me, his bottom lip shaking. “Doesn’t she remember?”

I didn’t want him to start bawling, so I quickly took the glass from him. “It’s OK, I’ll make you a sandwich.”

“But I don’t want —”

“A special sandwich. Out of special stuff. Like Daddy used to make, remember?”

He was still pouty but he’d raised his eyebrows, so I knew he was curious. “With potato chips inside?”


“With mayonnaise and peppermints inside?”

“Let’s see what we got.”
I think this passes the test (if I understand the test, that is!) in that it reveals some pain the characters are going through (the father has died recently), the fact that Red has to take care of his little brother, a light touch of humor (the sandwich fillings), and the punch of the book being “Let’s see what we got.” It's representative of what Red has to do throughout the book -- take on responsibilities of his family, his community, and his culture. Let’s see what we have inside, who we are, what we’re made of -- not just these characters but us, the readers. How would we handle ourselves in this situation? And when an issue like racism come up, how would we react to that and what, if anything, would we do about it?
Learn more about the book and author at Kathryn Erskine's website.

Check out Erskine's top 10 first person narratives.

My Book, The Movie: Seeing Red.

--Marshal Zeringue