I finished reading Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna last night, around midnight or so.
The book is fantastic in many ways. The only complaint I have is that it’s, well, too long.
For some people, lengthy books are a great thing. I prefer people telling a story and moving the story along.
But then there’s something to be said for losing one’s self in an entirely different world.
I’ve never had a great interest in Mexico, but The Lacuna brings a fresh perspective along with actual history and helps me to realize exactly how little I know about Mexican history.
It’s true that our history for some time in the USA has been largely Eurocentric. Our textbooks follow a sort of formula where they invariably talk about Europe and then the USA while ignoring the grand and rich history of the rest of the world. China, Japan, and India all get lumped together in one chapter, for instance.
And I understand, part of this has to do with one important reality- the subject is history is absolutely enormous. It’s almost impossible to really delve into American history much less World History- there’s just too much information.
However, in my day, American history still largely left out the important work of minorities save for a major figure like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. That’s just the reality of what I experienced- how much about the black community, about the Latin community, and so forth, do I actually know? What knowledge do I have of the early Chinese immigrants to the USA and their culture, their history, their experiences, their effect on the society around them?
And so it goes that the racists du jour will announce that white people invented everything simply because the history books make it appear to be that way.
Another interesting and probably startling thing about The Lacuna is that it forced me to reexamine my ideas about Communism. The book frames the story in such a way that you see normal people and then find out they’re Communists, and a completely different layer of what Communism means erupts- something that is closer to the ideal as opposed to the Fascism and Totalitarian Dictatorships that seem to erupt instead of what people actually wanted.
Basically, later on, the book explains within the story the difference between Communism and what the Communists think it is versus Anticommunism and the Witch Hunt that went on in the USA with people investigating others for “un-American” activities.
And so my legacy I’ve inherited in this world is one where the Anticommunist sentiment is what has dominated my perspective.
Of course, I understand this is a fictional story, so everything is explained a bit differently than reality, but I can’t really get into all of that right now because it’s beyond the full scope of this blog.
Anyway, the story as a whole is absolutely amazing, and I encourage everyone to read it.