Discovery of identity is an important factor that controls the characters in various well known tales that have remained in our minds and hearts for centuries. The Grace of Silence and The Girl Who Fell from the Sky revolve around Rachel and Michel's journey while they attempt to ascertain their identities and the crests and troughs that they face during this voyage. This paper will be an attempt to acknowledge the sharp contrast between the characters here which is related to the theme that how does racism, outer reflections and relative connections control the paths that Michele and Rachel use in order to find their identities.
Heidi does not shy away from directly targeting the theme of racism where her key character mentions that "Black girls don't seem to like me. Maybe there is something dangerous about me." and "When something starts to feel like hurt, I put it in this imaginary blue bottle inside me." this shows how even in that era of innocent childhood where the nasty aspects of social interventions are not present, color seems to have taken a strong place in Michel’s heart although the picture about her identity may not be as clear initially but signs of understanding about the context are present. Similarly, it was the social arrangements that taught Rachel about color differences, as she mentions that "Gradually all but one of our neighbor’s homes were purchased by or rented to other black families, the whites bolted for suburbs or other all white enclaves in the Twin Cities." The struggle pertaining to a juvenile’s understanding of color remains far more complex and it is the society which is shown to embed this feeling by both Michele and Durrow as written in The Girl who fell from the sky “" I don't ever mention that i'm related to white people. And most of the time I try not to let the black girls like Tamika see me talk to Tracy, because Tracy is a white girl. And the way they say that -white girl- feels like a dangerous thing to be."
Racial acceptance also seemed to have strongly impacted the characters in their shaping of the identity, if we analyze “The Girl Who Fell from the Sky”, it’s clear that Nella had a strong impact on Rachael’s upbringing and it was very difficult for her to understand the reason behind her Mother’s suicide, later as a Black child it becomes difficult for her to understand that each step why it was difficult for both Blacks and Whites to accept her; although later this situation changes however it still becomes very difficult for her to face and time comes when she learns to live without boundaries and her fear of social settings disappears.
On the other hand Michele’s Memoir was very strong as related to her father and all that she could recall was the strong struggle that her father faced after taking the decision of settling down in a locality that belonged to Whites. The democratic feelings were in the air, but were never tasted, she mentions "[Black veterans] had fought for democracy overseas, and they were hungry for a taste of it back home." Hence, with such sour memories it was difficult to identify oneself as a normal part of the society and similar to Rachel, Michele also faced equal resistance to determine, where she belonged to, in that society. Relatively, as the life progressed Michele also lost both anger and hope and she became equally care less about the society, which is also depicted by her comment where she says that “I should have made them squirm. I should have been the black girl that certain white women are conditioned to fear most.”
Social justice is a theme which has been fairly associated with racism and both The Grace of Silence and The Girl Who Fell from the Sky touch this theme however it is important to understand that over here both characters are girls that are growing in the society and while Michele suddenly finds herself amidst Whites Rachel moves to a place where she becomes face to face with Black community however in both cases there is a contrast connection that outlines the friction that cause them to remain in a dilemma of not being able to understand as to where they belong. Despite the fact that Rachel is a fictional character and Rachel is a non-fictional one, there are various similarities related to the challenges faced by them in the society. Despite being light skinned Rachel did not have much of a support and she mentions “Must race confine us and define us?”
Arguably, racism and color differentiation controls Rachel and Michele, while they struggle to identify themselves as a part of the society. There are significant points as discussed, in the life of both these characters that direct towards the presence of racism as the key factor that shapes their identity and later they realize the adversities related to their color which then compels them to become ignorant of social settings and such practices that impact their life.
Heidi, Durrow D. The girl who fell from the sky. New York: Algonquin, 2010.
Norris, Michele. The Grace of Silence: A Family Memoir. New York: Vintage Books, 2010.