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ARC Review: The Divorce Colony

The Divorce Colony: How Women Revolutionized Marriage and Found Freedom on the American Frontier by April White April White’s The Divorce Colony is set during the Gilded Age, in the America of the late 1800s. It revolves around the lax divorce rules then to be found in South Dakota.  Today, getting divorced is almost easier than getting married. But in the Gilded Age, divorces were not so easy to obtain. Divorce was viewed as a moral concern for the state, and was denounced from the pulpit for threatening the sanctity of marriage. Even President Theodore Roosevelt spoke out against it.  Laws around divorce tended to be most lax on the frontiers of the United States. By the 1880s the territory of Dakota gained the dubious honor of posting the largest rise in divorces in the country. At the turn of the century one city - Sioux Falls, South Dakota - gained a reputation for having the laxest divorce laws of all, and required only a three month residency in order to take advantage of them

Review: White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A book by a white woman talking to white people about their (our) own role in a racist social system. White fragility is the counterproductive anger and pushback white people exhibit when challenged to examine their own place in society, and how they benefit from America's racist system. If you are a white person there is definitely much to think about and reflect on in this book, but first you will need to be open to challenging yourself on race and racism.

This book is written by a diversity trainer and is based on her experiences in delivering diversity training. As might be evident from the title, it specifically focuses on black/white racism and doesn't delve into other forms of discrimination or intolerance that fall under the diversity umbrella. Its focus is on helping white people understand what racism is, how to understand our own role as a white person within a racist system, and how we can work to counter racism in our own lives. As such, I wish there could have been more of the latter, as four-fifths of the book focuses on defining racism, white supremacy, white fragility, etc., and it's only at the very end that the author talks about what you as a white person can do.

Bottom line takeaways for me from this book are: 1) racism exists (unfortunately hardly news these days), 2) we live in a society with a racist social system, 3) we as white people benefit from that system, 4) we help to perpetuate that system when we don't challenge it's impacts in our daily lives and finally 5) most white people don't understand any of this because our place in society means that we don't have to, and so we (consciously or unconsciously) perpetuate this system, and react negatively when challenged on that.

What to do about all of this? I really wished there could have been some "tools" to take away from this book but I don't know what they would have been. The example the author gives of how she handled a misstep of her own was very helpful as a way to begin, but this book is really an introduction - the author does offer suggestions but key among them is more study.

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