Joy Castro, whom I’ve profiled before (and whose memoir I thought was one of my favorite books I read in 2012), has written a thoughtful critique of The Goldfinch’s rather concerning record on everything non-white:
Why would a novel set primarily in New York and Las Vegas exclude people of color from any roles that aren’t working-class servitude? (That is, aside from “the Korean lady” and “Enrique,” two insensitive and inept social workers who mispronounce Theo’s name after his mother’s death, and “the Chinese kid” who plays a role in the book’s cartoonish crime-novel climax.) When characters of color do appear, they function, not in the fullness of their humanity, but merely to revolve around the well-off white characters they serve.
I loved The Goldfinch, despite its flaws—at 750 pages, a novel is bound to have some gaping flaws—but this piece makes many excellent points. For me the brilliance of that novel is that the sum of The Goldfinch is greater than its parts.