Posted in Short Stories

Gayl Jones: White Rat

Deal Me In 2020 – Week 3

I learned where she was when Cousin Willie come down home and said Maggie sent for her but told her not to tell nobody where she was, especially me, but Cousin Willie come and told me anyway cause she said I was the lessen two evils…

Gayl Jones’ short story “White Rat” is like a quick punch in the gut over and over again – specifically each time a racial slur is used of which there are plenty.

But this story isn’t meant to be comfortable- at least, hopefully, readers don’t find it comfortable.

The title of the story is the narrator’s nickname given to him by his family. He’s of mixed race and gets mistaken for being white on numerous occasions. The memories the narrator recounts present the damage done to people who live in a world where this matters.

While I’ve read stories with this theme that have been more violent and shows hatred on a grander scale, Jones uses “White Rat” to show the horrors of racial prejudice in the details of everyday life.

I read this story for Week 3 of my Deal Me In 2020 short story project when I selected the Seven of Diamonds. It’s included in Home and Beyond: An Anthology of Kentucky Short Stories edited by Morris Allen Grubbs. Check out my Deal Me In 2020 list here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

This is the first work by Gayl Jones that I’ve read. Has anyone else read any of her works? Anything that you would recommend?

4 thoughts on “Gayl Jones: White Rat

  1. Ha! “like a quick punch in the gut over and over again” – nice. I haven’t read nor heard of the author before either. This story sounds a little out of character with the rest in that anthology that you’ve posted about. (to my failing memory,, anyway)

    1. It is a little different from the other stories I’ve read in that anthology. I don’t think racism has been tackled head on like in this one. At least not the ones I’ve read.

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