I came across the audio version of this book as a recommendation while reading another anthology of essays. It was a short read to listen to, and narrated by the author ( which I love). The title really grabbed me, so I gave it a listen.
How does a black woman maintain her sense of self, when most of her friends are white? In public spaces and private, Dawn Downey is under attack by an onslaught of microaggressions. She struggles to find balance between personal relationships and personal integrity. In the process, she unconsciously takes on characteristics of the privileged. But after a photo of a racist toy shows up in her social media feed, she discovers her black power.
My Review- Really Enjoyable! Four Stars
Like I said this was a nice surprise find as an audio book. I really enjoy listening to the essays and experiences of others. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I was certain that I would get some first hand accounts of the author’s experience in the USA as a woman of colour. That I certainly got, but in an unexpected way, I found that it was witty in places, humorous, and I could feel the author’s (sarcastic) sense of humour shining through as she narrated her own work.
There are probably anywhere near ten or just over this essays here, and each one is set in a different context, location, and experience of her realising that, well yes–she is the ‘only black woman in the room’ and sometimes this was a problem ( not on her behalf) mainly from what I got other people. Not every encounter the author recalls is a clear ‘OMG how could anyone say or do that’ moment, some of her experiences are with people who simply did not know how to react to her, from they way I interpreted things. The issue with this was that not only did the author have to deal with this, the other person/people had to learn and adapt. Which in this day and age one might find strange. I mean, c’mon why in the twenty-first century does anyone need to adapt to another human being of a different skin tone? A lot of these people were ‘friends’ of the author, or associates at places where she carried out her hobbies such as yoga class. My favourite stand out essays are these below, these are not the names of them but how I referred to them in my notes via the topic they cover:
Natural Hair- This was the first essay I listened to, I enjoyed the humour in her experience as a teen/ young lady learning to manage her hair with the help of a friend, and a white step-mother. I also really enjoyed listening to her finding ‘proudness’ in herself. The author mentions ‘freedom and confidence’ in the essay, it was really enjoyable a great start to the collection.
The Restaurant- this was an essay which highlighted the author’s experience of subtle racism or bigotry behaviour at a restaurant with her husband ( who we later learn in a non-black man, if I remember correctly he is white). I found the essay in some places heartbreaking as the author shows her experience of simply asking to have her apple pie to go, and her receiving the burnt and uneatable part of the pie, along with some other subtle behaviour that would raise an eyebrow from the staff. Clearly it was not a mistake by the restaurant, as this part of the pie was totally uneatable. However the author played on her humour and sarcasm again with the ‘mmm, maybe it was a mistake’, ‘ ah you know, maybe this or that happened’ and in a way made ‘excuses’ for the restaurant. It reminded me of when people are gas lighted about their experiences, or made to feel that ‘oh it’s not that bad,’ with the excuses she made. Clearly, this was all tongue-in-cheek , I could tell it was to play up how often society encourage ‘making excuses’ and ‘ overlooking’ certain things if someone points out their experience. Well, at least that’s how I interpreted it! A really good listen this one was, as I was not expecting the direction it went in.
Jazzy- this essay focused on her experience of seeing a Facebook post that she interpreted one way, then there was a re-post of it by her friend ( who originally posted it), then the author interpreted it another way. Again it was lovely to listen to and experience the author’s own thought processes as she processed internally what she had seen posted by a ‘friend,’ that clearly didn’t consider her friends of colour.
Overall it was a really nice introduction to the author’s work, personality, and experience in life. It reminded me of listening to something that Alice Walker might write: personal accounts on society, being a woman, race etc. this expectation was what drew me to the book, it didn’t disappoint. I do recommend it to those who enjoy these kind of works or anyone who is a fan of ‘Alice Walker style essays.’