The Millions

Racism, Natural History, and Fiction

The natural history museum is a buffet of symbolism that writers of fiction find it difficult to resist: shelves upon shelves of animals, rocks, and plants are primed for metaphor, while the gruesome behind-the-scenes drama of pickling, skinning, and other acts of specimen preparation provide copious fodder for allegory. It should come as no surprise then that writers are mining the displays for material, and that the public is enthusiastic about the results. Anthony Doerr’s mega-hit novel All The Light We Cannot See, published in 2014, owed much of its charm to the young Marie-Laure, who follows her locksmith father to work everyday at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. There she wanders the halls learning about mollusks, geodes, and fossils before losing her eyesight to cataracts shortly before the start of World War II. Suddenly the boon of bringing a blind child to a natural history museum everyday becomes clear: with her father “continually placing some unexpected thing into her hands: a lightbulb, a fossilized fish, a flamingo feather,” Marie-Laure’s other senses grow stronger until she is capable of navigating through the museum, and then her Parisian neighborhood, completely blind.

is one of two books published recently in which the natural history museum plays a crucial role in the characters’ developing identity. The other, allots only 20 pages to the natural history museum, but it nonetheless plays a pivotal and altogether different role; Whitehead’s natural history museum is embedded with political messages about the dark past of natural history itself. Both books made  bestseller list, meaning both reached a large audience with their very different messages about the role of

Stai leggendo un'anteprima, registrati per continuare a leggere.

Altro da The Millions

The Millions2 min letti
A Year in Reading: Andrea Long Chu
The reader had been doing this a lot recently—not reading, that is—at first out of exhaustion, then depression, then moral principle, and then for sport. The post A Year in Reading: Andrea Long Chu appeared first on The Millions.
The Millions4 min letti
A Year in Reading: Omar El Akkad
Every year I set out with a plan, a list of upcoming releases to look out for, classics to catch up on. And every year, thankfully, I fail. The post A Year in Reading: Omar El Akkad appeared first on The Millions.
The Millions2 min lettiTech
A Year in Reading: 2019
Welcome to the 15th annual Year in Reading series at The Millions. This December's series is, at 90-something contributors, the most crowded yet. The post A Year in Reading: 2019 appeared first on The Millions.