Saturday, September 19, 2015

Stand Your Ground

Okay, let’s talk a little about Victoria Christopher Murray’s Stand Your Ground: A Novel.  First, I want to say this is a first for me with Murray.  I walked in unfamiliar with her writing, but with intense curiosity for the message of her book.  Yet, I have to say, I walked away with my expectations marginally unmet.  But I’ll get to that a little later. 

Now what is Stand Your Ground about?  Truth: we can take this piece of controversially-driven fiction and apply it to our present-day reality.  The book serves as the author’s voice/response to a rising American dilemma.  A dilemma entailing the killings of unarmed black boys and men.  
We've heard and found ourselves touched by their stories over these past few years.  And “years” is an understatement to the actual dilemma's history.  The murdering of unarmed black boys/men (girls/women as well) has been a recurring American issue before slaves even landed in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619.  I mean, let's be for real.  What's happening in our community today is a direct reflection of our ancestor's yesteryears.  But I’ll digress in this moment by pinpointing some present examples haunting our news feeds.  One would be the loss of Trayvon Martin [Sandford, Flordia] back in 2012.  Another, Eric Garner [New York City, New York] in 2014.  Michael Brown [Ferguson, Missouri] 2014.  And one of the latest atrocities, Sandra Bland [Waller County, Texas] 2015.
You’ve all heard these names before.  You’ve all heard them recently.  And as much as I want to delve into each of their stories, I know it’ll lead this post to a topic for another conversation.  A topic I would have to be careful not to get into my feelings about.  

As it concerns Stand Your Ground, Murray opens her novel through the focal point of a woman name Janice Johnson.  Janice is about to face her worst nightmare: her teenage son is dead.  According to the police who arrived at her doorstep late one night, it was a shooting.  One in which a white man took her son's life.  The argument is whether the man was standing his ground against Janice’s son, or was it an act of murder?  The D.A. gets involved alongside the police to build a case against the shooter.  Meanwhile, Janice’s husband and brother-in-law organize a roaring protest for justice.
That’s not all…

Murray then flips the story into the perspective of a woman name Meredith Spencer.  She, in fact, is the wife of the shooter.  She is also a prominent witness to the events that took place that night.  However, she's smothered by her husband’s broad, passive-aggressive influence over her life.  Besides, he's a wealthy man with a number of resources he can use to dig himself out of this predicament.  Still, the question is whether she will become brave enough to speak up in court.  To tell the truth but risk losing her family.
Murray's narrative consists of Janice and Meredith alternating views on the event.  Each woman ruminates on her life as a mother/wife, mistakes, and redemption as women.  As the court day approaches, what will they leave with once the verdict is announced?  What–if any–form of respect will they find in each other?

The Message is Clear

Every bit of Stand Your Ground’s message and defining purpose comes as an absolute. From my personal awareness, if there’s any obligatory novel taking on its subject–this is it.  The book operates as a medium for readers to register the mind frame and thoughts of women given such circumstances.  And the reader can do so from a safe, and I’d even say emotionally healthy, distance.  Stand Your Ground does its job reflecting a degree of the troubling thoughts of the women processing the lost of a child in true-life cases. Yet, the truth–for me–is that the actual execution was unfortunately monotonous.  But don’t get that confused with the respect I have for the book.

The Poetry is Missing

As I said in the beginning of this post, I’m new to Murray’s style of writing.  And that’s where my worries may have surfaced.  For a book so loaded, stimulating, and provocative, I didn’t feel the spirit of such in the book.  Which I found strange.  Until I got a quarter through and saw what was bothering me; what was causing me to slip into boredom.  
The writing lacked a certain technical peppering of verse, panache and prose.  Which I found may have conveyed and elevated the characters’ feelings, introspection, and emotions.  And the same applies for the overarching theme proposed to the reader.  Now I'm not saying those elements are necessary, or that Murray didn't serve them.  But if you look at it in terms of range, Murray's only swung so far.  So I didn't quite capture the full on passion of Stand Your Ground.  Despite being a book predisposed with it.  On the other hand, I received its message.
At the end of the day, I felt Murray's writing blunted most of the experience.  And upon further contemplation, I figured out exactly what bothered me.  Stand Your Ground wasn't written from the exposing and high literary aim I'd anticipated.  And considering Murray's known as an urban fiction writer, it became clear to me what I missed.  Now I'm not here to distinguish the differences or rate one above the other.  It simply comes down to style and approach.  I'm just here to share my thoughts, hopes, and experience with the book.  I still believe in Stand Your Ground.  I still recommend it as well.  

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