Wow! I can’t say enough about the depth of this book. Katie Ganshert said in an interview that she felt compelled to write it. I’m so glad she did. No One Ever Asked is a contemporary fiction account of the transfer of students from a primarily black, lower income school district to a predominately white, upper income school district in Missouri based on the actual event in 2013. Through the eyes of three very different families, it deals with the intricacies of racism and prejudice in its many forms.
When I finished the book (I listened to the audiobook version.) I couldn’t stop thinking about the angles of prejudice that exist I hadn’t even thought of before. That’s one of the things I appreciate most about the story the author crafted. The multi-faceted looks at the issue come from many sides. Not only do we see the traditional view based on skin color and how even that is many-dimensional, but we also see the split between affluence and poverty, between athletic and bookish, between pretty and not-so-pretty. Ideas about behavior and showing ones true self versus hiding behind a mask are also examined.
This story weaves in so many varieties of difference that I can’t list them all. I was impressed at how well she played the various viewpoints. We see the initial pushback against the transfer students. Then we get a bit of preferential treatment by the black teacher against her white students. We see her working hard to boost the black students while seeing the white families as having everything they could need. There is ingrained fear, learned behaviors, and reactions so tied to generational history that no one knows where they come from. They just are.
Without giving away the ending, let me say that the characters (and the reader) come to find out that things aren’t always as they seem. The truth of superficial bias applies to all races, income levels, genders and personality types. That is the truth I want to take with me from the book. Realizing how biased my ideas about various groups actually were has opened my eyes to better ways of looking at the people around me. Of a deeper understanding and empathy for the unseen struggles they go through.
I recommend this book to anyone who thinks they are unbiased, non prejudiced or completely open minded. It may challenge that belief, as it did mine. It will point out a few areas in which you might still need work. If it doesn’t, you can celebrate the learning curves of the various characters and perhaps find parallels to your own journey.
So this is your invitation to start a conversation. Do you see the struggles of minorities in the United States and worldwide? Can you understand the deeply embedded ways of thinking that serve to shove down those who are not like the popular norm? Are you part of a culture that celebrates difference or are you uncomfortable in a diverse environment? Comment below and let’s start a dialog and help to create a culture where empathy instead of fear is the first emotion we display.