Kulp captures the chaotic turmoil of culturally-muddled miscommunication and FAS brain fog of lost-boy Kevin, a 21-year-old going-on-ten jailed for murder, seemingly by his own matter-of-fact confession. Walls surround the characters as the culture of a stable, rural lily-white community braces for an influx of racial minorities and city dwellers seeking a more relaxed lifestyle. A possible serial killer presents a sinister unease in this paradise.
We live in external and internal worlds—what if the internal world did not exist for you? What if you had no pictures, remembrances, no images of future, possibilities, eventualies. What if you were always shocked when awakening from the grayness of sleep by the sudden vividness of the real world?
Walls of multi-cultural and ethnic differences, language, mores, dress, worship and foods can be breached as people get to know each other. But the whitest wall of all is inside Kevin, whose every awakening is an abrupt screaming perceptual shock. Imagine not being able to imagine--unable to project ahead possible causes and effects or to remember and to learn from his past, living only in the literal present, he is bewildered to find himself behind bars where his fly entertainment antics annoy and enrage rather than entertain his cellmates. His innocence would be charming and cute if it were not so indicative of the legacy of scrambled brain cells his mother created in him in her sodden search to wall out the real world and drown her deep emotions of despair.
Kevin has learned only one culture--that of the slang gang using hood hip-hop and cop-out; communicating in the rural mainstream strains beyond credulity. The old saying, “If you had half a brain, you would know…” would apply to Kevin, except that he has less than half a brain, although he appears to be a regular young man with a strong desire to please. To the sheriff’s question, “..Do you know why you are here?” Kevin replied, “I killed doc Johnson.” Is this a simple open and shut case? The warp and woof of the story line present a dramatic and complex set of young characters who learn about life and being an adult in different ways, from family, elders, sexual encounters, advice and threats. If only Kevin had the ability to learn, he might have a chance for survival in a world that can be treacherous and dangerous when you hang out with the wrong crowd.
Kulp has an impressive grasp of non-mainstream cultures and the ability to present speeches in dramatic and sensitive settings. This story will connect with inner-city minority kids and young adults. We all do stupid things in our youth, but we learn from escapades and develop the maturity that comes from experience. We explore cultures and develop abilities to understand and communicate in several cultures. What if we knew only one culture, one language, one family, one neighborhood? Travel broadens, but for the alcohol-challenged, one can get lost—lost in the bottle, lost in the world, lost to friends, lost to family, ultimately living with a lost brain. Kulp makes these lessons not only palatable, but intriguing with clues, characters and sub-plots that lure young readers on into enlightened understanding.
Everyone wonders why certain people do things that appear strange to us. Since communication and miscommunication is an issue for each of us, this theme is universal. The Whitest Wall is a worthy read, a trip into a novel world, written with entertainment quality as vivid as a screenplay with a multitude of metaphors for interpretation and meaning. Is Kevin the culture of America that is single-mindedly focused on contemporary entertainment with little thought to past or future, lack of awareness in communicating with foreign cultures? Is the white wall the blindness to aspects of ourselves and society? This tantalizing tale should engage youthful readers and provoke discussion among those of high-school age and older. Caulfield, move over, there is much more to tell!
Review by Lyelle Palmer, Ph.D., Special Education Professor Emeritus, Winona State University, Minnesota. firstname.lastname@example.org
Causes Jodee Kulp Supports
National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
MInnesota Organization on Fetal Alcolohol Syndrome
North American Council on Adoptable Children...