Updated: Jan 20, 2020
Publisher/date: G.P. Putnam's Sons; Reissue edition (December 31, 2019)
Genre: Modern Fiction
“I don't need you to be mad that it happened. I need you to be mad that it just like... happens.”
Have you ever read a book that you were supposed to hate?
I hated every minute of this book. If the insidious racism wasn't enough, everyone was constantly using Emira, and it was painful to read. Not just using her, but telling her what she wants, forcing her into their own decisions for her instead of letting her make her own.
Some moments were physically painful to read. This book made me embarrassed to be white. Do people act like this in real life? I strongly hope not, but since it was written, I'm sure they do. I literally liked no one in this book.
There's "Alix," who does everything for selfish reasons. And Tamera, her one black friend who does just as much damage with her bad advice.
And Kelly, with his pretentiousness and his fetishizing of black people.
There's Zara, Emira's best friend, who also tries to make decisions for Emira.
And there's Emira. I liked her sometimes, but other times she was petty and childish. At first I wanted to protect her, but then I just wanted to shake her and be like, "QUIT looking to other people to run your life and make a decision for yourself!" She was definitely not the grown-up I hoped for by the end.
And throughout the book, where the hell was Peter, Alix's husband? It's like he only exists in the background, that no one cares what he thinks, and that he doesn't care to have any say in the family. Maybe there are men out there like that, but he's not exactly described that way.
This book was all-in-all a very painful read. I think that was the point, it details many forms of racism, from the open and outright, to the more insidious forms that people don't even recognize in themselves. It should be painful. It was very educational. I knew "fetishizing" was a thing, but didn't realize its implications. Its also an excellent study of "doing the right thing for the wrong reasons" and how that's almost as bad as just doing the wrong thing.
This is not a very eloquent review, sorry for that, but this book kind of shattered my brain a bit, and now I have to put the pieces back together. I'm sad and mad and generally depressed with humanity. Bravo, Kiley Reid. Bravo.
3 stars, an eye opener with a poor closing
After mulling on this a while, I've digested my feelings on the book and have more thoughts. These do include indirect spoilers.
I don't mind a painful read, especially one with an inherent lesson. I do want to grow as a person through my reading. But I did not like this book. Why? Not because it made me feel shame and embarrassment for my whiteness (partial though it may be.) But because no one grew in this book.
Sure, you could say that the protagonist finally stood up for herself. But the way Emira finally did it, slapping her employer in the face in a way that irrevocably damaged her career, really didn't accomplish anything more than petty revenge. Alix did not learn the error of her ways, though I felt like she was the type of person who could have. You see, she had good intentions for Emira. She had selfish motivations too, and I'm not saying she didn't deserve a little slap in the face for it (or a big one,) but I don't think she ever even learned that what she was doing was wrong. And she was doing SO MANY THINGS wrong.
The boyfriend, Kelly, is in the epilogue doing the same old shit, never seeing his behavior as racist, in fact seeing it as quite the opposite. He had no "come to Jesus" moment.
And Emira. While she finally grew a backbone, it was not one that saw the error in the world and attempted to correct it in any small way. I wanted her to be the hero, to show these people the problem, to be a candle in the dark. But she just wasn't. I felt for her all the way until the end, with that childish move that taught Alix absolutely nothing.
Is it a more realistic portrayal of the world? Yes, yes it is. But is it life changing? No. But I wanted it to be.