Title: The Inheritors
Author: Judith Kirscht
Format: Paperback and eBook
Publisher: New Libri Press
Genre: Literary Fiction / Cultural Identification
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About the Book:
Raised in Chicago’s Latino working class community during the Sixties, Alicia Barron uncovers her mother’s Caucasian roots when she inherits a time-worn mansion, the remnant of the estate of a Chicago industrialist who, she discovers, is her grandfather. Her search of the house takes her into the lives of past generations of women whose love carried them across forbidden boundaries, and into the conflict of class, nationality, and race that is the history of the city itself. The identity she finds there, however, leads to increasing conflict with her first great love, Ricardo Moreno, who wants Alicia to reject her gringo roots.
I am not familiar with either the feel of the 1960’s or Chicago: most of my information is gleaned from books and film of the times. Fortunately, neither is needed to understand the characters in this book, in fact, this story could be set anywhere in any country, nearly at any point in modern history. Tackling the sensitive issues of discrimination and racism, Kirscht has taken the standard box from which those stories are most often gleaned and turned it on its end. While everyone is familiar with racism and discrimination in a big picture sort of way: majority group uses their power to constrain a minority. Unless you are a member of a minority group, you are probably unaware of, or less aware of the subtle and not so subtle tensions that occur within those minority groups,
As this story progresses you will become highly aware of those subtle distinctions and slights that are used within communities that are nothing short of senseless discrimination. The contrast in attitude and acceptance in her childhood neighborhood in the intervening 20 years is glaring: the acceptance of others seems to have been replaced with insularity and mistrust with a distinctive conflict arising for those of mixed heritage. Pushing her to ignore or deny her white heritage is Ricardo, a fellow teacher and her love interest. Interestingly, his extreme reactions to her mixed racial heritage arrived when she decided to explore her mother’s family, and discovered that she too was a woman with a blended history. As Alicia delves deeper into her own family history, she finds answers and acceptance in the fact that these women overcame difficulties, crossed borders and loved despite differences, not similarities.
Throughout the story we are treated to several different views on national and cultural pride, all giving rise to the ultimate lessons about what it means to be American, with or without a distinct mixed heritage. Plausibly laying the groundwork for misunderstandings that created these tensions, Kirscht has managed to provide a story that while it deals with Latinos in the specific, could be applied to any subset of any town, and provides plenty of food for thought about your own perspective on your own cultural ties and associations.
I received an eBook from the author for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.