Joyce Carol Oates recalls a racial profiling incident from the 1990’s in light of more recent and tragic events in Ferguson, MO and elsewhere, and relates it to her novel The Sacrifice.

“How naive it seems to me now to have imagined that I might have been a more helpful witness to what was obviously, in retrospect, a flagrant example of police profiling. At the time, I did not even have a cell phone that could record anything; it was a very minimal phone, indeed. And I have to confess, what I felt when the trooper yelled at me was sheer visceral fear, dread — there was no way, there is no way, that a lone individual can stand up to law enforcement officers who are not only armed but, usually, physically domineering. Out on the Jersey Turnpike, in the dark, as traffic rushes past, no one can assert his or her rights to the police without inviting immediate retaliation.”

Speaking of her novel:

The specter of white racism hovers over the lives of these individuals — “fictitious” but, to the novelist, achingly real. It is a way of bearing witness if only at a remove, through the shared sympathies of fiction.

Read the full opinion piece in the Boston Globe.

1 Comment »

  1. Thank you so much for your novels, at least the four I have read so far.
    I am so glad that they became a part of my life (along with Ellington, Mingus, Dickens, Hugo,
    Coltrane, psychedelic rock, Philip K,. Dick, Ian Rankin, Theroux, A.S. Byatt, Wodehouse,
    Mark Twain, Stephen King, and some others) and are enlivining my retirement in the Philippines.
    You might be interested to note, that in the few bookstores in Manila, there is always
    ONE novel of yours, (never two) but its not at all predictable what it will be, and each visit its a different one. They have NEVER carried your recent best seller The Accursed (had to order that via Singapore) but did have the Bloodsworth Romance, Blonde, My Heart Laid Bare, and Middle Age (which I am about to start). Since all new books are sold sealed in plastic (to protect them from humidity and insects) it is always a surprise package as to what one will get – but I have loved all of yours and look forward to what Middle Age has to offer (although I am long past mine).
    Also have to say you did a tremendous job of describing how a musician thinks and works in My Heart. I have know such people, although myself was always only a one-fourth musician (the other parts being devoted to history, novels, and the gay life). Maraming salamat po for enriching our world with yours – and for chronicling the pain of, and injustice inflicted on, the powerless. Many blessings for you from ang Panginoon, Lee Cronbach


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