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Silver Sparrow Book Review

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones is a book that takes place in the 1980’s about two young girls, Dana Lynn Yarbor and Bunny Chaurisse Witherspoon, that are half siblings. They are teenagers close in age and connected through their father, who is a bigamist. They live in the same city of Atlanta, but they lead very different lives. The first half of the book is told from the perspective of Dana, who is aware of the state of her family. Dana and her mom, Gwendolyn, are the secrets of the family, and Dana only sees her father, James Witherspoon, once a week. The second half of the book is told from the perspective of Chaurisse, who is ignorant to the existence of this other family. She believes she lives an ordinary life with her father, James, and her mother, Laverne. The book explores how these two girls take on the complexities of their family tree and the role it plays in their drastically different lives.

The girl icons this book presents are half sisters Dana and Chaurisse. They are the narrators of this book and the vehicles that explore how women are treated in a patriarchal society. They are girl icons because of how they handle their situation after watching the effect James has on their mothers, Gwendolyn and Laverne and their family dynamic. They learn from their mothers’ relationship to James and relationship to society and how it pertains to the treatment of women within the patriarchy. They are icons in the way they represent the dichotomy in what may be a lot of families and how as women they are left to handle those situations.

The main rites of passage that is explored by the two main protagonists are their meeting and their high school adolescence. Dana and Chaurisse are both teenage girls who are finally coming to face the reality of their familial situation. This not only impacts their changing relationships with their parents, but it effects their relationship with their peers and then each other. They also start to explore their sexuality with Jamal and Marcus, another reflection of how James and their mother’s have influenced those kinds of intimate relationships.

Dana and Chaurisse present many aspects of girl power. Mainly, they decide to take their relationships into their own hands. Specifically, Dana is determined to know her half sister and the life she lives. So, she bears the courage to walk into Laverne’s salon, despite being told from a young age by her father that she was his secret. This is an example of defying the patriarchy and the man who dictated how she should portray herself in society. Later, Chaurisse presents girl power when she identifies Gwendolyn’s address to go speak to her after she and her mother are confronted with Gwen’s Alabama marriage certificate to her father James. The maturity it takes to reach out to your father’s secret family shows a level of girl power that even her mother was not capable of out of hurt and anger.

What makes the a book a breakthrough is its’ representation of the different sides of girlhood under the same patriarchal complexities that impact each of their family dynamics. The girls are honest and flawed as young girls should be and represent what it is like to deeply experience the impact of a flawed society. Not only these girls, but the women all around represent such real depictions of the women many of us know in real life. Not a single character in this novel is perfect, but nor are they truly villainous or terrible. Even James, who has created such a complex situation, truly loves both his daughters and is but one example of what patriarchy can do.

The story reminds me of a movie I once watched called Twitches. It is about two twins who are separated at birth by their mother and are put into two different families to keep them safe from an ominous darkness. One of them grows up in a wealthy household, while the other more poor. This is similar to the dynamic of Dana and Chaurisse. The girls only find out they are connected when they experience magic when in each others’ presence. They realize they must come together to save their mother and the world she lives in. The book is a less mystical version of this book, but is comparable with the core plot. The book, however, is a much richer and realistic portrayal of what their sisterly relationship becomes as a result of those different lives.

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