‘His Eye Is on the Sparrow’ by Ann Pearlman

The subtitle for this story is ‘An engagement in black and white’ because the story of Ann, a jewish white girl, who falls in love with Ty, an african american, is featured. Back in the 1960s this was a huge deal and I bet that even in 2014, it could still be an issue for some families.


The main characters both are kind of naive in their love for each other despite their racial differences which is good to read. It is a non-issue for them until their families enter the scene and they start interacting with other people outside their immediate social circles. In a way, this is a study of how the outside world influences you – or not. Maybe influence is the wrong word but the two of them suddenly encounter situations they thought wouldn’t happen, especially Ann. By association she is now black and tainted, at least that’s how other white people see their relationship.

‘His Eye Is on the Sparrow’ shows how their families react to the news and it is a sweet memoir that also shows how different expectations and reactions of people can be. Even if some see themselves as progressive or even supportive of racial equality, it is still a different ballpark when it suddenly affects their own family. And it’s true, we still see this every day. Even over 50 years later, this still applies to some social issues and just shows how much we live in cycles.

Actually, there is not much I have to say about this story, as it is a short one but worth the read nonetheless. I really enjoyed the prose and way it was written. It felt at times more like a long poem than an actual story, which is  full of sentiment. There are two quotes I picked out to share with you because I found them noteworthy while reading.

“A sick feeling twists my stomach accompanied by a new knowledge. Black people can easily become toys for white people. Black people can easily be used for diversion. At any moment. Out of the blue. Me, too.”

“He tells me he is most free in my arms. I tell him I want to crawl inside him and hear music with his ears, see the blue of the sky with his eyes. Why does love want the impossible?”

Especially the last quote makes my heart sing as I think it’s such a beautiful sentiment. Love does want the impossible and the words just capture the essence very well. So yes, I’d definitely recommend this story.

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  • Tim

    One of my best female friends is a white, Christian girl with a name that is traditionally African-American. My first year at college, I went to her house for a New Year’s Eve party. I was living with my grandmother at the time, and when I told her where I was going, she threatened to take my keys away until I could produce a picture proving my friend wasn’t black. Sadly, that was in 2007, not 1907.

    • Wilhelmina Upton

      I know, it’s still crazy in some places. My grandma was never racist towards Jews even though she grew up in Nazi Germany, but turkish people bring out the worst in her.