Cover Image: Skinfolk


Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

So, a white guy had an idea to artificially create a family that is multi-racial. And how'd that go for him? If you're interested in ways to screw up your kids, this may be your book. The idea is at best naive and wishful and at worst, manipulative. Reading this book was like watching a car crash in slow motion. 
If you're interested in family dynamics, though, you may find this to be an enlightening read and it does read smoothly.

Thank you to NetGalley for an advance copy of this book. Not my cup of tea, but I think it will find its readership.
Was this review helpful?
Oh boy . . . the first thing I noticed about this book is it is written in a philosophical-analytical way, as opposed to a straight forward way. Everything in it, everything that happens is symbolic, such as the white picket fence. I found the writing style irritating at first. In fact, if I didn’t have an ARC that needed a review, I probably would have stopped reading. Fortunately, I did continue and finally got used to how the story was being told. Unfortunately, by the end of the book, I wasn’t sure what Mr. Guterl was trying to say about his family.

Did he actually see his family as an “experiment” gone wrong? If so, I would suggest he reread his own book that covers so many happy family times. His parents were loving, happily married, dedicated to their children, and not abusive in any way, shape or form. Did he think that because one adopted child wasn’t “saved” by being adopted, his parents failed in their “mission” to save the world one child at a time? If so, the author needed to get real and see his family like any other family. He needed to stop obsessing about race. Not all family members in all families succeed in life. We all have choices we make every day, we all have free will.

Oh, but race is what the book is all about, isn’t it? Apparently so. Mr. Guterl can’t seem to see his family or the world any other way. He ends up sounding like a stereotypical white Northern liberal who wants all white individuals to feel guilty about the racism in the United States. It doesn’t matter if the white individual is not prejudiced. Oh wait . . . he states in the book: “The not-so-secret truth of white people, I have learned, is that most of us, deep inside, hate people of color.” Huh? It would seem after growing up the way he did, he should personally know that is not true. Was he lying the whole time about his love for his black and Asian siblings? Maybe that strange plastic surgery he had as a teenager was a serious sign. (Whyever did his parents allow for such senseless surgery?)

At the end of the book, the author is obsessed with the idea that his brother, who is both Asian and black and lives in a Southern city, is in danger every day of his life. This brother did have an encounter with violent racists, but that doesn’t mean such a thing will ever happen again. I live in a Southern city where the black population is equal in number to the white population. Such a thing that happened to his brother would be seen as an outrageous crime that would have gotten much press coverage. The victim would not have to have any concerns at all about revenge from the criminals’ friends or relatives.

Oh, but the author must believe we are all racists, and all minority individuals are in constant danger. He’s like a soul with a messiah complex, acquired early in life, who wants to save the “people of color”, but feels he is doomed to do so. Maybe he should do something about his complex, climb down from his ivory tower, and go live in the real world again. Maybe he should stop seeing his childhood family as an “experiment” and appreciate the fact he had a childhood with far less trauma than many, and so did his siblings, with the exception of one. Or maybe he should simply stop seeing his childhood family as being so special.

Racism in this country is very real and always has been. No one should think otherwise. Nevertheless, we have come a long way since the last century, and we continue to make progress. Having racist individuals in the closet coming out in the last 6-7 years is not a totally bad thing. It makes them more visible and easier to eventually deal with. Saying every white person or most every white person is racist does nothing positive and it’s not true. It’s simply something someone in an ivory tower would say to secure his space in the ivory tower.
Was this review helpful?
The premise of this book is compelling, however even from the book’s beginning, it felt not as if I was reading memoir, but I was reading a study. Part of this is embedded in the idea of the author’s parents creating this perfect, mixing pot family, but considering the privilege of the narrator in the family, it made this book feel a bit contrived for me. Detached, even othering. I wanted to know the perspective of the family members who didn’t have he biological tie more. I think this could work for some readers, or even from a more sociological slant, but it wasn’t for me unfortunately.
Was this review helpful?
Despite Skinfolk being a memoir, Matthew Pratt Guterl takes a very distant, observer role in telling the story of his unique upbringing. Guterl is the white son of two white parents who, through both pregnancy and adoption, created a diverse family as a means of living their values. They displayed their ideals in an extremely visible way during a time when doing so was even less safe or popular than it is now. While this makes for a fascinating sociological read, it lacked emotion and self-reflection in the way I would have expected from a memoir. Guterl often comes across as if he is trying to be an objective observer of the goings on rather than someone who lived it. The few times where he does insert himself fully into the narrative, he seems detached from feeling. The clinical tone put me off a bit, and left me wondering what the author's true feelings are about the experiment in which he was unwittingly involved.
Was this review helpful?
The title Skinfolk was the first thing that enticed my curiosity to read this memoir that touches on an important topic that is usually or never discussed. I highly recommend this book because of the story and the discussion that comes with it.
Was this review helpful?