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Book Review: “Small Great Things”

“Small Great Things” tackles racial tension in the 21st Century and certainly is a great complement to any United States History course.


Ruth Jefferson is the only African-American nurse at the maternity ward of a Connecticut hospital. She’s helped give birth to children for twenty years at the same hospital, until her whole life is changed during one, overtime shift.

During a routine checkup, an infant goes into cardiac arrest. Ruth wasn’t even supposed to be attending to this patient, but a newborn dying before leaving the hospital isn’t uncommon— except the newborn’s parents were white supremacists.

Jodi Picoult’s “Small Great Things” tells how three people’s lives convene in a courtroom. Picoult tells the tale of modern day racism, and how plays out under the force of the law.

Ruth started was never meant to care for the baby, its file reading “NO AFRICAN AMERICAN PERSONNEL TO CARE FOR THIS PATIENT.” But she overcame her hesitation to perform CPR on the infant, trying to save its life.

Turk Bauer, a Neo-Nazi who runs a website about the supremacy of the Aryan race, sues Ruth Jefferson under the charge of manslaughter. With no money to pay for an attorney, she has to turn to the help of public defender Kennedy McQuarrie.

To save Ruth from prison, they have to teach each other about what it means to be a “racist” and fight the social barriers that have been put in place unknowingly by the society that surrounds them all.

“Small Great Things” describes the story about racial tension that occurs in the real-world. It speaks of racial prejudice, police brutality, and even the hate-crime oriented groups that still thrive today.

Picoult uses her novel to talk about uncomfortable topics in a way that appeals to people of all backgrounds. It informs people of their advantages that have been given at birth and the inner-struggles that go on in their own communities.

She tries to speak to those of all ethnicities of the racism that still resides in the United States. “Small Great Things” tries to convince readers that they can actively try and change the way that we see the world for the better.

By explaining the struggles that Ruth Jefferson has to go through as an African-American woman in America, Picoult pieces together a story that can educate the masses about institutional racism, and leaves us with a manual so that we can overcome it.

About Alex Haylock

Alex has been involved with Blackfriar Chronicle since 2015. He's recently started working with the paper consistently and plans to continue writing. He is a member of the track team, and enjoys running in general.

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