Small Great Things Takes on Social Justice

By Kelly Coyle-Crivelli | August 30 2018 | Community Reads

Debuting at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and soon to be a major motion picture, SMALL GREAT THINGS was chosen for the 2017 National Teachers of the Year social justice booklist for high school – adult readers, a resource for educators, parents, community members, and policy makers interested in reaching young people on issues of social justice.

With richly layered characters and a gripping moral dilemma that will lead readers to question everything they know about privilege, power, and race, SMALL GREAT THINGS by Jodi Picoult is a stunning page-turner that’s perfect for book clubs.

The novel tells the story of Ruth Jefferson, a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.

In a starred review from Booklist, Jodi Picoult is praised for offering a “thought-provoking examination of racism in America today, both overt and subtle. Her many readers will find much to discuss in the pages of this topical, moving book.”

Check out the reader’s guide here, including a conversation between Jodi Picoult and Celeste Ng, author of LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE. Also, create a memorable book club event with this special SMALL GREAT THINGS Book Club Kit, including: Discussion Questions, Jodi’s Reading Recommendations, a Printable Bookmark, and an Excerpt from the book. You can also listen to an interview with NHPR’s WORD OF MOUTH host Virginia Prescott, or listen to her talk about what inspired her to write the book on NPR Weekend Edition Saturday with host Scott Simon.


Contributed by Avery Mathews