So this is a book of short stories, the first one I’ve come across on the shelf. I hope it isn’t the last because I really like these. They’re a breeze to read. The backbone to this entire book is that someone in the stories is probably from Ghana.
This book gets a point for actually being written by an Afican American, as opposed to an African African. Now. The author is from Ghana, but currently lives in Brooklyn. Which is closer to African American fiction than “Things Fall Apart” or “Half of a Yellow Sun.” This has nothing to do with where books are written or who writes them, but more to do with how fucking stupid America’s book categorizations system is. If a black person wrote it, it goes into the African American Fiction section, no matter if the person is African, or American, or what other genre the book might be. It was kind of a joke when I started doing this, but it’s amazing how many authors in the AA fiction section aren’t AA at all. They’re just black from somewhere.
Anyway, this book is a mixed bag of goodies. Oh the whole, I enjoyed it. When the book is dealing with issues of race or colonialization or imperialism and religion, it’s pretty on point. When the book touches on gender issues it’s not as cohesive. That stuff clearly isn’t the authors bag, but problems are problems.
So most of these short stories are very conversational. People talking about life and stuff. Since almost all the protagonists are men, you come across a few male gazey scenes. Those are whatever, and then there’s the representation. We get the single moms and the mean women and the needy queen bee and the poor maid and the big fat ugly domineering wife.
Not all of these are ‘negative’ or intended to be that way, but there isn’t the scholar or shop owner or leader to balance anything out, and the ones that are negative definitely get their full time.
The positives are that the stories are all generally well written, and the language is good. I feel that he’s at his personal best doing the thoughtful conversation stuff (even though one of those stories goes off rails in the worst way possible). It’s a quick read and if a story doesn’t hit you in a page or two you miss nothing by hopping to the next one.
I wouldn’t recommend this really, because one short story turned me off so thoroughly it made the parts of the book that were remotely enjoyable less so.The more I think about it the worse it gets too.
Below the cut TW: Rape Racism
Avoid the story “Rachmaninov” at all costs though.
So the story Rachmaninov is the story about a black male student who goes to an art thing with his friends (all white) and has the hots for this one girl (who exists only to be looked at, as do the other female characters with one exception) who doesn’t appear to be interested in him. He’s a nasty piece of work himself. “he liked quiet, reserved women like Christina; extroverted and overly confident ‘chicks’ like Greta were not his cup of tea.” So this other girl Greta who is grossly white and obsessed with black male bodies starts hitting on him and stuff and they get high and drunk and go to a friends house and have sex. Before hand they talk a lot, she is disgusting and rich and white and he is disgusting and full of internalized racism (that the author has his share of). The author also makes sure to point out here how awful American blacks are, especially our women.
She is a rich white chick indeed, Felix thought, but she digs my shit; and what really matters at the end of the day is someone who digs your shit, no matter how funky ti is! In contrast to those emothionally high-maintanance and sexually preclusive black women in Park Sloe, and their turbaned and dreadlock-adorned coutnerparts in Fort Greene, white girls are sexually liberated, Felix’s mind drifted on. They fuck or marry who they want without any sociological or pathological hang-ups. He pondered why these well-educated black women often would not give the time of the day to smart and intelligent cats like himself or the white boys who chased after them. Instead they settled only for regular black men who most often turned out to be too black for them. Call it the dilemma of the modern urban black woman, Felix thought, and immediately concocted an idea of writing a book of polemical essays dealing with this issue.
That passage came after he talked about not dating black women because they were too high maintenance not interested in someone as awesome as he, or sluts who had the audacity of not being monogamous before the first date ever occurred. His conclusion is that he must not be black enough so he decides white women are his bag. He also takes a few isolated incidents of prominent black men marrying white women and saying that this was a big deal all having to do with black women’s failings.
This dude can go fuck himself. Not the character, the author.
So after all this they get high on some bad weed that’s laced with something or another and Greta is sick or something. She’s calling for help asking for an ambulance and such. Felix calls a friend for help and the friend wisely says not to call for an ambulance or to take her to the emergency room because Felix is black and she is white and this would go poorly for Felix; except for the fact that she’s telling him she’s dying. Felix has to figure something out. The problem is that Felix doesn’t have any ideas of what to do next. Instead of being useful he tries to walk off the high and wake her up and stuff. Whatever he’s doing isn’t working, so he decides that now would be a good time to have sex with her again. So while he undresses her the author thought it’d be a good time to talk about how surprised felix was their first go around that she wasn’t clean shaved in the vaginal area. (his words). (vaginal area). So then he rapes her (because she’s out of her mind at this point and is calling him bill cosby) and the story ends with him pumping away to rachmaninoff music. She isn’t a factor at all.
It’s really fucking disgusting.