Study Guide

I Know This Much is True Race

By Wally Lamb


Vanilla is a fine flavor of ice cream, but not if it's the only flavor. (If there has to be one flavor to rule us all, we nominate Ben and Jerry's Everything But theā€¦, which is the melting pot of ice cream. But we digress.) Race is often a touchy subject to talk about, and I Know This Much is True does a pretty terrible job of it, sometimes pondering issues of racial homogeny and the concept of Manifest Destiny, usually in reference to some character who's held up as a sort of token for their entire rest. Warning: You may find yourself with a bad taste in your mouth at times as you read this book.

Questions About Race

  1. How does the concept of Manifest Destiny apply to themes other than race in the novel, like mental illness? Gender?
  2. Why is race such a prominent issue in a novel where every single main character would check off "white" on the census when asked their race?
  3. How do you feel about Dominick accepting money from the Wequonnoc tribe?

Chew on This

Despite Dominick grappling a bit with white guilt, this book ultimately fails to actually criticize racism because it is racist in its use of people of color, relegating them to token status.

In aligning racism with stigmas against mental illness, as well as sexism and homophobia, this book argues that we have a serious cultural problem on our hands, and the only people benefiting from the status quo are straight white men.