How was Aunt Loretta's life shaped by racism?

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Aunt Loretta, one of the main characters in Heidi W. Durrow's novel The Girl Who Fell From the Sky , experiences racism throughout her life. Some of those experiences are shown to us, as readers, in real time. Others are recounted by the narrator, Rachel, who is Loretta's niece....

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Aunt Loretta, one of the main characters in Heidi W. Durrow's novel The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, experiences racism throughout her life. Some of those experiences are shown to us, as readers, in real time. Others are recounted by the narrator, Rachel, who is Loretta's niece. In this passage, Rachel recalls something she was told about the childhood of her father and her Aunt Loretta:

Grandma always wanted Pop and Aunt Loretta to know white things. Like when Pop wanted to be a musician. Grandma made him play the piano, when what he wanted to play was the banjo or harmonica. A piano is more white than a harmonica.

This is an important excerpt because it shows how racism filters down into individual families. Rachel's grandma isn't racist, but she's raising her children in a racist society: she's trying to protect them and give them the best opportunities she can. From an early age, Loretta is encouraged to "know white things" so she can fit in better, even though she's black.

As an adult, Loretta is well-educated, but she doesn't have the same opportunities as white women do. And she's still trying to fit into a racist world. When Rachel comes to live with the family, she mentors her, trying to help her adjust to life as a mixed-race adolescent where she's seen as neither "black enough" nor "white enough." She helps Rachel to do the best she can with what she has (including taking care of her hair, something that Rachel's white mother didn't quite know how to do), even though she knows well the challenges that the girl will face navigating the world as a black (or in Rachel's case, mixed-race) woman.

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