Day After #BlackOutTuesday: Dedicating Time to Reading Black Fiction Authors

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Well, here we are, a day after #BlackOutTuesday. I feel like America went through one giant self-awareness “aha” moment during a difficult therapy session. And now we’re all trying to figure out how to change things for the better. It’s hopeful.

I am certainly no one to lecture, and hell, this fight is nothing new. People of color have been screaming about it for generations. All I’m doing now is trying to join as a support and ally. I’m learning what it means to be anti-racist (admittedly, a new term I learned yesterday).

#BlackOutTuesday gave me a lot to think about. I’m Jewish, so I understand on a certain level what dealing with prejudice is like, because yes, I’ve dealt with anti-Semitism. I also know what it feels like to have my non-Jewish friends stand up for me and show solidarity, and it feels pretty damn good. 

But I’m also ridiculously white, like “spend five minutes in the sun and turn into a tomato” white. Which means I benefit from white privilege, because when I walk into a store, or get pulled over by the cops, or go for an evening walk in my neighborhood, people don’t see a “Jewish woman.” They see a “white woman.” For this reason, my friends who are people of color live a different experience than me.

Yesterday, I learned just how different.

And it made me cry. My heart bled for some of the experiences my friends shared with me. I have not found it in myself to watch the video of George Floyd’s death, because the images alone are traumatizing to me. I know his last word. His poor mother.

I realized that because I have the luxury of turning off the news and tuning out the injustice for a bit means that I benefit from white privilege. Because those who don’t benefit cannot just turn off the news. This is their reality.

So now, what will I do about this new realization?

Read. That’s what I’ve decided to do. Read. And LISTEN. And LEARN. I know some stuff, but not nearly enough.

I’ve made a personal commitment to begin choosing fiction books to read by black American authors about the authentic black experience in America. Usually, I choose books to read based on the plot or writing. This time, I’m making a conscious decision to choose based on the author, because nothing transports me into another pair of shoes like reading a strong fiction novel.

And on my blog here, I’ll be reviewing these books. I’ll promote their authors. I’ll talk about what I learned, and will simply share my journey.

I’m currently reading an ARC of a new book releasing in early July, so after I finish that, I’ll begin this new path. I invite you to follow my blog if you want to learn with me, and together, we can work toward creating a more empathetic world, a more just world, a more inclusive world, and a safer world for EVERYONE.

Nico Walker’s ‘Cherry’ Will Take You on a Journey of Scumbaggery (Book Review)

cherry book cover

Book: Cherry

Author: Nico Walker

Publisher: Knopf

Published: Aug. 14, 2018

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Cherry-novel-Nico-Walker/dp/0525520139

Stars: 3/5

Nico Walker has an edge that polished and professional writers may not have attained, allowing you to understand the world through the eyes of an addict who cares for nothing but his next high.

You will find no heroes in this story about service members deployed to Iraq, drug addicts and bank robbers.

In fact, the protagonist in Nico Walker’s debut novel, Cherry, is so detestable, you might find yourself hoping he fails. Because he deserves whatever comes to him, and here’s the thing: he’d agree with you.

Cherry published in 2018 and received much buzz because it was written by a man who is currently serving time in prison for robbing banks. He also happened to be an Army medic in the Iraq War and a heroin addict.

And perhaps that might have been one of my greatest qualms with the book; I didn’t feel like I was reading a novel. The story felt like a memoir, with its raw, choppy narration told in first-person from an anonymous narrator—who is obviously the anti-hero of the story.

The Story

Boy meets girl. Boy gets high with girl. Boy and girl break up. Boy and girl get back together. Girl goes to college. Boy joins Army. Boy marries girl. Boy goes to war. Girl cheats on boy. Boy returns from war. Boy and girl divorce. Boy and girl get back together. Boy and girl get high.

Welcome to the first modern-day story about the modern-day opioid epidemic.

So Here’s the Deal

Not everyone is going to love this book. There’s a lot of cussing (I mean, A LOT). There’s a lot of sex. There are even some scenes that depict animal cruelty, to show the complete soulessness of certain characters.

I don’t mind the cussing and the sex. That’s life. The animal cruelty did bother me, but I understand why Mr. Walker included those scenes.

My Take

My issue with the book is the complete scumbaggery of the nameless protagonist and narrator. He has no redeeming qualities to help us root for him despite his flaws, except that maybe he loves dogs.

And then there’s the writing. At first, I thought Mr. Walker was using a highly stylized approach so his character would appear disconnected from reality (like a drug addict). But after reading the acknowledgements section, I realized this was the best Mr. Walker could write.

The crude coarseness of Mr. Walker’s writing did have its advantages though. His story has an edge that polished and professional writers may not have attained, allowing you to understand the world through the eyes of an addict who cares for nothing but his next high. I appreciated this perspective.

I didn’t hate the book necessarily, but I suppose I wanted more from Mr. Walker—some higher epiphany or realization by the end. But the story just felt … hollow. Shallow. And a little bit sad.

But maybe that’s the point of Cherry. If so, Mr. Walker definitely accomplished his goal.

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