Eugene and Jan Peterson

It’s always a pleasure to hear from appreciative readers, but it’s a very special joy to get a letter from those I deeply admire. Eugene Peterson and his wife Jan gave me permission to quote this response to Birmingham:

We read this book together over the past two months and feel we have been immersed in a distant world that we had only known previously through the public media.

Jan was born in Birmingham and grew up with a few black playmates. Eugene grew up in an almost completely white world. He only knew one black person, who later became the best man in their wedding. Our only experience with Martin Luther King was listening to his “I Have a Dream” address at Morgan State University in Baltimore.

Which is to say that the world of racial discrimination and violence was almost entirely “black and white.” Tim’s novel introduced us to the enormous complexity introduced by the “movement”–moderate whites, moderate blacks, militant whites, militant blacks, the KKK, fearful blacks, naive idealistic whites. Narrated through the alternating first-person voices of a young black woman, Dorcas, and a young white man, Chris, the tension builds page by page.

We both feel that for two months we experienced the closest thing to being there without being there.

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