Does Race Matter? Who Gets to Ask That Question?

Does Race Matter? Who Gets to Ask That Question?

To the Editor:

It’s hardly surprising that an extremely light-skinned black man might decide he is, as he puts it, “stepping out” of the “flawed and cruel game” of race. That seems to be the point of Thomas Chatterton Williams’s memoir, “Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race,” as described in Andrew Solomon’s treacly review (Oct. 20). Solomon can hardly contain his delight that Williams isn’t like those troublesome blacks, like Ta-Nehisi Coates, who are so “angry” about race. Indeed, according to Solomon, this book is “refreshingly free” of Coates’s “punishing though brilliant invective.”

The book deserved a reviewer who could ask whether a writer with Williams’s hue and life experience has any standing to opine that race doesn’t matter. Instead, the review extends a protective arm around Williams’s shoulder as Solomon welcomes Williams into the club of whiteness, where he need not worry his pretty head about race.

Julie Lythcott-Haims
Palo Alto, Calif.

The writer is the author of “Real American: A Memoir” and “How to Raise an Adult.”

To the Editor:

Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s review of Kevin Wilson’s novel “Nothing to See Here” (Nov. 10) might well share the book’s title. The reference to the reviewer’s own forthcoming novel and her quotations with little context of “phrases that drove me crazy with jealousy” as well as the scarcity of information about Wilson are pure self-indulgence. The review’s opening sentence, if well meant, nonetheless points to Brodesser-Akner and is not substantiated in the review: “Good Lord, I can’t believe how good this book is.”

Diana Bloom
New York

To the Editor:

I’m inspired by a book review. I get the book’s theme. I get the connections. I am delighted by good reviewers and remarkable writers like Taffy Brodesser-Akner. Got to get this Wilson book tomorrow.

Judith Maloney-Boyle
Acton, Mass.

To the Editor:

If we can lean on the “one picture is worth a thousand words” idea, I wonder what words go with the full-page illustration on the cover of the special section devoted to Children’s Books (Nov. 10). It shows a child in an easy chair reading to six other children and a giraffe and a bear, all leaning over to listen to the story.

A nice idea, for sure. But what are the words here? What is the message when the focus of the illustration, the one in the position of power (the one who can read, the one who holds the book), is a white boy with blond hair. Why not a girl? Why not a girl of color? Of all the possibilities, the one that was chosen was a white male, front and center, once again. Would changing things up be better? I think so.

David Martin
Lyndonville, Vt.

To the Editor:

In his review of Azra Raza’s “The First Cell: And the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the Last” (Nov. 10), the British neurosurgeon Henry Marsh tells a joke about oncologists who would use a screwdriver to open the coffins of dead patients and “carry on treating the patient.”

This reinforces the view that oncologists are not to be trusted by their patients, but his suggestion that oncologists “don’t always know when to stop” is an anachronism. In this country, patients, not their oncologists, choose when to stop.

Whether oncologists and researchers are unrealistic about the success of the currently available therapies approved by the F.D.A. and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network is an important issue. Courageous souls who choose certain therapies are often hoping to do better than the average. Equally inspirational and brave are the patients who choose to let nature take its course. Contrary to what Henry Marsh implies, it is — as it should be — the patient’s responsibility to decide what therapy to take or not take.

Steven Sorscher, M.D.
Winston-Salem, N.C.

The writer is a professor of medicine in the oncology division of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

To the Editor:

In his By the Book interview (Nov. 10), Seth Meyers says he’s willing to wait as he dreams of a C.G.I. Alec Guinness playing John le Carré’s spymaster, George Smiley, in “The Honourable Schoolboy,” the untelevised volume of the Karla trilogy.

I read elsewhere in The Times that the directors of “Finding Jack” are slated to deploy C.G.I. in an attempt, as John Mellencamp might say, to do their “best James Dean” 64 years after that actor’s death. So perhaps time will prove Guinness stout in granting Meyers his wish.

Scott Lahti
Marquette, Mich.

An essay on Nov. 3 about Edith Wharton’s novel “The Age of Innocence” misstated the given name of one character. He is Julius Beaufort, not Julian.

The War Stories column on Nov. 10 misstated Ash Carter’s place among President Barack Obama’s defense secretaries. He was the fourth defense secretary to serve under Obama, not the third.

A review on Nov. 10 about the picture book “The Perfect Seat” misspelled the author’s surname. He is Minh Le, not Li.

A review on Nov. 10 about the graphic novel “White Bird,” by R.J. Palacio, misidentified a character who has polio. He is Julien, not Vincent (Julien’s antagonist).

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