Black & White

  • Review
By – December 9, 2011

The title of Dani Shapiro’s lat­est nov­el is an exam­ple of dou­ble enten­dre par excel­lence. And, just as with her first nov­el, Fam­i­ly His­to­ry, Shapiro’s Black & White weaves a sto­ry so com­pelling and enthralling, it can almost be tasted. 

More­over, the cov­er con­jures images of black and white pho­tog­ra­phy, rein­forced by the pres­ence of the black and white image of a young girl on it. True, pho­tog­ra­phy plays an inte­gral role in Shapiro’s sto­ry, but I believe the author intend­ed to con­vey how very lit­tle in life is tru­ly black and white.

In real­i­ty, a black and white pho­to is not com­posed mere­ly of those two col­ors. Shad­ows, for exam­ple, lend depth and lev­els of dark­ness to the piece, inject­ing anoth­er ele­ment of col­or into the mix. 

In Black & White, Shapiro intro­duces read­ers to Clara, an adult woman whose moth­er gained noto­ri­ety as a pho­tog­ra­ph­er by tak­ing black and white nudes of Clara as a young girl. The Clara Series,’ as the pho­tos became known, depict­ed Clara from ages three to four­teen. When she turned eigh­teen, Clara did not leave home for col­lege. She fled home to sep­a­rate her­self from the life she had come to know.

Four­teen years lat­er, with Clara’s moth­er Ruth on her deathbed, Clara’s old­er and basi­cal­ly estranged sis­ter Robin con­tacts Clara to let her know. Unsure how to react, or whether a reac­tion was even war­rant­ed, Clara returns to the fam­i­ly home, a love­ly Man­hat­tan apartment.

Sleep­ing in her child­hood bed leads Clara to recon­sid­er her life dur­ing those ten­der and ago­niz­ing years. How she responds to the anger and ani­mos­i­ty she feels toward her moth­er leads the read­er to pon­der, Is any­thing in life sim­ply black and white?”

Tami Kamin-Mey­er is a licensed attor­ney who would rather write than fight. Her byline has appeared in a vari­ety of pub­li­ca­tions, includ­ing Bet­ter Homes and Gar­dens, The Rotar­i­an, Ohio Super Lawyers, Ohio Lawyers Week­ly, Ohio Mag­a­zine, Cleve­land Jew­ish News, the Jew­ish Tele­graph­ic Agency, and www​.chabad​.edu. She is also an award-win­ning Hebrew school educator.

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