Wedding Woes and Mutual Hatred


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In The Wedding, West offers a more nuanced and succinct take on the same themes. In the late summer 1953, the prosperous Coles family is gathered on the Vineyard for the nuptials of their lovely scion Shelby Coles to a white jazz musician. The impending wedding brings to a head the foundational illusion of their lives: that skin color is “a direct barometer of virtue,” as Shelby’s sister, Liz, sarcastically puts it. West tracks the idea’s evolution and its fallout by telling the stories of the family’s ancestors, black and white, from back when “cars hadn’t yet been invented, cocktails hadn’t yet been invented, and the idea of colored people taking vacations had not yet been invented either.” In a more recent flashback, a young Shelby gets lost, and the islanders are on the lookout for a “little colored girl.” But blonde Shelby isn’t recognizable as such, and when she tells her name to a white mother, the woman is at first confused and then reluctant to ask if she’s “colored.” “I couldn’t do anything as awful,” the woman says to her friends. “Supposing she isn’t? It might leave a scar.”

The complete article

Emma Garman — The Paris Review

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