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Into White Book Review – Black Eyed Peas with a Girl Tired of Being Black

5-star

Synopsis.

Into White by Randi PinkWhen 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.

Latoya

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 criminalizing her. Sometimes she frustrated me, but I understood her more deeply than I have any character I’ve ever read.

Supporting Characters

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 that what meets the eyes.

Black Culture

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 ‘really 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.

Sour Grapes.

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.

goodreadsLINK indigoLINK authorLINKamazonLINK

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!

 

9 Comments

  • verushka

    February 19, 2017 at 7:20 am

    I haven’t read a character with whom I can completely relate to — there are elements in books of Indians living in America, but it’s not the same. I feel like sometimes I never will find something that will fit me and my experience as an Indian from South Africa. I look for elements I can relate to in different characters, whatever their race.

    Reply
  • Chiqui

    November 12, 2016 at 6:16 am

    I’m super interested in reading this! I’m on a quest to read more diverse books so this is definitely going on my to-read list. I’m glad the book turned out great; it could have been a real disaster given the premise LOL but glad to know it’s not that way at all.

    Reply
    • ltlibrarian

      November 12, 2016 at 11:00 am

      Yes! Definitely do read it. And I know what you mean about the premise. That’s what got me so interested in it in the first place. And the the author did an amazing job with it. So I’m hoping it gets more buzz because it really is fantastic

      Reply
  • Tori @ InToriLex

    November 1, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    I’m happy to read your review and to see mostly positive things!! It’s hard to write about racism and make it feel real, because even when it happens its so shocking and vile it doesn’t feel real too then!! I def want to read because there’s not many books I feel connect to my lived experience well! Great Review!
    Tori @ In Tori Lex

    Reply
    • ltlibrarian

      November 4, 2016 at 2:40 pm

      Very true! It feels unreal because you wish it didn’t happen and can’t imagine it but it’s ownvoices so I’m sure this has happened. Read it!! So so good. It’s not often a book puts me in heavy tears like that

      Reply
  • Naz @ Read Diverse Books

    October 6, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    I have been curious about this book and how it would be received for months. I’m so glad to see your positive review! The premise, at face value, appears controversial and made me hesitate a bit, but it seems that the book turned out great overall. I think the story and premise worked so well because it was an #ownvoices book. It’s possible that a white author or non-black author could have written a similar book that resonates with readers, but it would be more likely to have problematic aspects!
    I didn’t see you address in your review because you like to keep it spoiler-free. But I will assume that the whole “girl praying to be white” premise turned out well. It seems that it makes valuable and important points about black culture. And hopefully it ends with a positive message!

    Reply
    • ltlibrarian

      October 6, 2016 at 10:21 pm

      When it first got buzz I was like “this can go really good or really bad” and I agree that I think the ownvoices aspect is what helped. And honestly growing up I also had feelings like “I bet my life would be better if I was born white” and I think there are a lot of young people of colour out there that suffer through that sort of self rejection and the feeling of wanting to escape what makes life difficult. Which is why I was so interested to read this in the first place. Because there is a lot in the black community about “playing at being white” and “trying to be white” so this was a great play on that

      And yes, I think it’s an obvious conclusion but people can be weird about spoilers so I didn’t talk about the ending/how things work out for Latoya. But the premise does turn out well. It was very emotional for me, I definitely cried all over the place. Which in contemporary is UNHEARD of for me. I cannot praise this book enough. I hope it gains some more traction!

      Reply

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