Susan's Reviews > The Intuitionist

The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead
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's review
Dec 29, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: listened-in-car

This is a fascinating meditation on race, racism, and "racial uplift." It seemed to start slow for me, probably because of a misconception I had about the book that it was a mystery or sci fi story or both. (Not sure where that came from.) Instead it's the meticulously crafted story of an elevator inspector in a universe parallel to our own in the 1950s, i.e., just as the Civil Rights movement is beginning. The tale develops an extended metaphor for competing approaches as to how to combat racism, with allusions to DuBois, Ellison and others. At times I wished the author had ignored the demands of his own metaphor enough to give his central character, the only African-American female elevator inspector in "the most famous city in the world," more background, more personality. Her isolation and alienation (and those of other characters) are heartbreaking; the nearest thing to closeness she finds is an anonymous partner in a dime-a-dance hall. But I've read nothing as challenging lately in its clear depiction of the daily insults of racism and how it is internalized, clouding people's perspective on who friends and enemies are and what needs to change.

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