When a black teenager prays to be white and her wish comes true, her journey of self-discovery takes shocking–and often hilarious–twists and turns in this debut that people are sure to talk about.
LaToya Williams lives in Birmingham, Alabama, and attends a mostly white high school. She’s so low on the social ladder that even the other black kids disrespect her. Only her older brother, Alex, believes in her. At least, until a higher power answers her only prayer–to be “anything but black.” And voila! She wakes up with blond hair, blue eyes, and lily white skin. And then the real fun begins . . .
Randi Pink’s debut dares to explore provocative territory. One thing’s for sure–people will talk about this book.
***Trigger warning: discussions of rape and attempted rape scene***
The Good Bits.
I related a lot to Latoya, in thinking of how I felt growing up and also in her current life. She’s frustrated with the skin colour she was born into and sees the injustice that comes along with it. There’s clearly a lot of desperation for her to live in a world that caters to her vs. one that criminalizes her. Sometimes she frustrated me, but I understood her more deeply than I have any character I’ve ever read.
I loved Latoya’s brother because he was an example of a black male determined not to let discrimination hold him back from achieving his goals. And I loved how much he cared about Latoya even if she wasn’t always great at doing the same. Her parents, I initially found to be caricature-like, but as the book went on they revealed more layers of themselves and became more complex. And I think you can say that for the rest of the main characters in this book. People revealed more of themselves than what meets the eyes.
The benefit of reading an #ownvoices book by a black author is that she intimately understands many of the nuances of black culture. And I loved that she addressed the things that we, as a culture, do to bring one another down. There’s a focus on being light or dark skinned, having bad hair or good hair, or being ‘black enough’. Even I make self-deprecating jokes about being ‘white.’ And she addresses how damaging that can be within the culture. Because on top of any discrimination from anyone else you’re also dealing with discrimination within your own race. And that’s SO important to talk about.
Social and Political Aspects
As per the trigger warning I included above, there is an attempted rape scene in the book. I’m not a fan of rape included that even whiffs of being a plot device, but the novel portrayed it well, I thought. It addressed not only the difficult emotional trauma that comes with it, but also the injustices with reporting rape. And of course, issues of racism were included throughout the book. Including how certain opportunities are withheld and how people treat you.
Depiction of Racism
For me, the depictions of racist remarks said by white characters to black characters often felt unreal. I couldn’t picture someone saying that to anyone’s face. BUT I grew up in Toronto, Canada where racism takes a much more subtle form. For example, someone might look extra long at an interracial couple, but no one would ask why you were with that person. At least, not in my experience. But since the author is from the town she wrote about, I have to assume that it’s VERY different there. I think whether you relate to these overt racism scenes will depend on where you grew up/where you’ve been.
The Last Bite.
I wish this book was around when I was a little odd black girl in school who wanted to be anyone but myself. When I was teased, and ignored, and blamed my skin. I wish I had been able to read this when I felt personally victimized for being black. I think I would have learned to love myself sooner in my own skin than I did.
When POC talk about representation this is what they mean. This feeling of relating so deeply to a character’s experience because it is almost exactly your experience. To feel like a book is addressing you directly. THIS is why diversity in books matters. And this is why #ownvoices matters.
And I will promote this book like crazy if it means one black girl can read it and know that she’s worthy in her own skin.
Have you ever read a book where you SUPER related to the main character? Or other character? Who was it?
Let’s do lunch again next week!