Exploring nostalgia, loneliness, heritage, and race; Toni Nealie will make your heart ache with this collection of essays. She beautifully examines distances, both literal and metaphorical, between people and cultures. There is a big distance from her homeland of New Zealand, when she moves to the states with her family due to her husband receiving a career opportunity. This meant Nealie had to leave her job, which held a good part of her identity. Her identity was also linked to New Zealand through friendships and self purpose. Once she is living in a near Chicago suburb, she is isolated and feels “suburban neurosis” after being separated from her support network; yet she ends up learning to be resilient without her familiar structure.
Her thoughts on identity also continue in the essay titled “Meditations on Brownness”. She is called names by strangers, assumed to be a nanny to her own children, or even a criminal. It can be summed up in this line by Nealie: “whiteness could see, often did see, brown as less than”. Her feelings on identity also change once in America because of unspoken social code. She wants to stand up to the person making a racist joke in conversation, but they’ll say she can’t take a joke. Not a win-win situation. She admits her New Zealand accent helps, which is another unspoken part of the code. She describes different shades of brown in the most beautiful and heavy hearted poetic way. Going over a vast array of her life experiences, Nealie’s collection of essays are all beautiful and thought provoking
TL:DR- This collection of essays will move you and open your perspective on loss and longing. Pick this book up when you want some deep and beautifully written thoughts on distance that cannot be measured in miles
Reviewed by Katie Holland, who is a Chicago based artist, creative mind and bookworm.
Publication Date: May 3, 2016 Page Count: 200
ISBN: 194043078X Publisher: Curbside Splendor Publishing