if Snowpocalypse 2010 hadn’t hit when it did, i would have met Heidi Durrow at Winter Institute 5 last week. instead, i spent about an hour on the phone and on my computer, trying to figure out how i would eventually get back to Baltimore from CA. of course, at that point i had only started the book — i tried to read a bit of everything before i went to Wi5, and didn’t end up finishing anything.

in any case, i had started and really been sucked into THE GIRL WHO FELL FROM THE SKY — made it about halfway through, which is farther than i got into anything else i read for the conference. a profoundly melancholy book, it drew me in from the start. characters are incredibly important to me and to how i read, and Durrow manages them with finesse, giving you just enough of a taste of each to want to know more, spacing the big reveals out to keep you guessing and reading. tonight, i finished it, and am wishing that i could talk to Durrow — or possibly be transported back in time to last Thursday. either would work just fine…

after i finished, i sat for a while thinking about what i wanted to say. rather than give you a sense of the plot, or a review (which others have done well), i thought i’d tell you what came next — the big question.

THE GIRL WHO FELL FROM THE SKY is, in a major way, about identity. who are we, and how do we know it? the bi-racial main character, Rachel, remembers the first time she “knew” she was black. which got me wondering, when was the first time i knew i was white? i’m not sure i can remember, to tell the truth. but a more pivotal moment for me was the first time i knew i was a “nerd” — one summer, when i was still in elementary school, a “friend” (i think the pseudo-word ‘frenemy’ might have been invented to describe this girl) told me that i read too much.

if someone told me that now, i would probably agree with them. and laugh. but back then, i remember being incredibly upset by this, as if i had been accused of some major wrong-doing. read too much? i don’t think i ever thought about how much i read, or about how much other people read, and what it meant. i was told many similar things over the years, and it became a solid part of my identity — i was the girl who read too much.

there are worse things to be, and worse things to be told, of course. but realizing that THAT moment, i could remember, tells me that that moment had a profound impact on who i was, who i became, who i am now. who would i have become if i had been defined differently, both by those around me and by myself?

there is no real answer, but it does make you think. which is, in the end, what good literature does. so despite this not being a review, it is a resounding recommendation for Durrow’s novel: it will make you think, and wonder.



  1. anne says:

    Jenn – you nailed it! I did review this book a couple weeks ago and although no one ever tells me how I’m supposed to act/think because I’m “white” you bring up a good point. Now that I think about it more I know what I was called growing up and how it totally shaped my life. And it wasn’t good. I loved this book too and I’m glad to see it’s receiving such a positive response.

  2. BS McNair says:

    I have known this young lady for some years and to see her marvelous account on her Danish and Black upbringing is to be commended. I seen her at Powell’s Book Store and her reading from her book was delightful. Durrow has the know with all to keep you captivated in her writing and I am glad to have her book and the audio to cherish forever. I look foward to her future endeavors of enlightment for us all to read and meditate on. More your people should give accounts of there upbringing, in sharing it can heal the soul.

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