Although the Bridging Cultural Gaps book group was completing its discussion of selections from Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States and had selected for its book in December How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them, somehow the discussion turned to The Negro Motorist Green Book that African American motorists used as a guide to locating places to lodge and places to eat when traveling during Jim Crow. Forgotten at this point as to why the topic arose, but it was not because there is a current movie titled Green Book, although one book group member did share information that there would soon be a movie out by this name about this topic. Further discussion revealed that a number of white book club participants had previously been unaware of this guide book publication, and once again the entire group exploded with, “Why was I unaware of this?” — “Why don’t we learn these things about our history?” — “I was an adult before I knew … (whatever).” There was a great deal of interest in seeing the movie when it would come to local theaters.
Today Facebook shares “‘Green Book’ is ‘full of lies’: Dr. Don Shirley’s Family Speaks Out.” “On November 21, with the controversial new Peter Farrelly film Green Book coming to theaters this holiday weekend, family members of the Black music prodigy who is featured in the film spoke out against his portrayal on NPR’s 1A Movie Club.” https://shadowandact.com/green-book-is-full-of-lies-dr-don-shirleys-family-speaks-out?fbclid=IwAR0uAspph_lqhD7g9UPo-GBe5NRkaYQRa1qdEIgLVvaLIsCkeOFkXS7Pl5c.
The article about the interviews on NPR’s 1A Movie Club contained a link to “‘Green Book’ is a Poorly Titled White Savior Film.” https://shadowandact.com/green-book-film-review-white-savior/. This title is what tied Green Book to a different book club meeting where Richard Morris’s novel Well Considered was discussed, and the author’s wife was invited to attend. Other participants would have had no idea at all that there was this linkage, so here is the explanation. Members of this book club were discussing Well Considered’s African American protagonist Ron Watkins and commenting upon his determination and persistence in finding out the truth about his great-grandfather. Someone commented that every time Ron ran near Jimmy Clay’s house, there was the mental reaction of wanting to be able to advise Ron to not go there. (Spoiler alert:) Then there was the comment that once Ron was trapped and his friends came to save him, Ron instead saved them! (but this spoiler should not keep one from reading the book as there is so much more to experience). There was also another location in the story where Ron found himself in great peril. As discussions are wont to do, this one, https://richardmorrisauthor.wordpress.com/2018/11/16/representing-the-author/, moved on and came to a close without the author’s wife sharing important information about “why.” In the manner that some authors write, Richard Morris never knew how the story was going to end; he would put his characters in a situation without knowing how they would get out. The only thing he did know during this writing was that there would not be a “white savior,” and some plot possibilities were eliminated in order to avoid that pitfall.
Perhaps this is part of the reason that Robert Fleming of the African American Literary Book Club (AALBC.com) was able to write, “Some critics have often said white authors cannot capture the soul and passion of African American characters, but that is not the case with Richard Morris’s aptly titled novel of race, hate, eugenics, and violence … Mr. Morris, a white man, has been looking and listening to all of the nuances of modern life, especially the joys and disappointments of Black culture and history. Through Ron, he examines the fear, insecurity, and potency of the American Black man, which some of our authors dismiss as just cheap machismo, gangsta posturing, and emotional shallowness … The writer looks favorably on the spice and spunk of our families, our husbands and wives, as they make their way bravely into the white world … With on-target commentary on race, sex, crime, family, social and gender issues, and mob violence, Well Considered is a profoundly memorable and affecting novel of an African American Man trying to come to grips with the hate-filled past and the poisonous divisive present.”
The “white savior” article contained many topics that should be discussed in both book clubs and other settings such as blogs, but that is for another time.