Rating: Don't Bother + 5 Scoops
LaToya Williams attends a majority white high school in Montgomery, Alabama. Outside of her older brother, LaToya is without friends at school and in her affluent suburban neighborhood. After an extremely humiliating experience at school, LaToya prays to trade her black skin for that of white. Upon waking the next day, LaToya discovers that her prayer has been answered. Now LaToya has to learn to navigate life as white, blond, and privileged. Not to mention, maintain the appearance of her pre-transformation self around her family who are unable to see the "new" LaToya.
Hearing of this book a week or two before its release, I was intrigued. There was a mystery surrounding it that I hadn't witnessed since I'd begun immersing myself in young adult literature. Being set in my hometown and the interesting premise prompted me to purchase the book.
After reading the first two pages, I wanted to throw it against the wall. Within those two pages, I encountered crab-in-the-barrel mentality, colorism, self-hatred, and a multitude of stereotypes. Although I wanted to abandon the book multiple times, I continued to read because I wanted to see where Pink was going with the storyline. Ninety pages into the novel, two glaring truths were evident: self-hatred is real and stereotypes still rule.
LaToya's constant harping on her blue eyes, reminded me of Pecola from Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye. I wasn't a fan of LaToya or her family. I found LaToya's parents to be idiotic and her mother's emasculation of her husband grated on my nerves. Some things I wondered while reading:
- Who randomly drops quarters on a frequent basis in the forest?
- How does Deante know everything that happens in the school?
- Since indoor malls are near extinction, do malls with arcades still exist?
At the conclusion of the book, I felt nothing was resolved. My ending thought, "I sure hope this is satire." This book could have opened up serious dialogue; instead it provided less meat to chew and more kool-aid to drink. However, I will close this review with two quotes that hopefully sparks discussion on the issues raised in the book.
"We'd had this conversation many times before. Talking white means something totally different to Alex. He equates talking white with proper English, which he says should never be reserved for only the white community. On the other hand, my idea of talking white is an all-encompassing attitude—more of a transformation than simple vocal inflection. Moreover, to succeed at talking white, a person must embrace the act of being white or it won't work." (44-45)
"Black skin was filled with so many barriers, so many restrictions, so many. Don't walk too deep into that neighborhood. Stop and turn around if you see too many Confederate flags catching wind on front porches. Don't you get in that chlorine water, or you'll mess up your perm. Don't talk too proper or you'll be accused of talking white. Don't talk too Ebonic or you'll be accused of talking ghetto." (77)
"I, however, could find chic treasures among all the junk. I liked the idea of clothing with a soul, so I imagined historical facts about my finds. For instance, a pink knee-length skirt may have belonged to a 1950s Southern housewife who vacuumed in high heels. Or a crisp white button-down may have been worn by Condoleezza Rice for a DC interview; she was, after all, from Alabama." (112)
"He had in abundance what I lacked—perspective. Perspective that you are what you are. Perspective that no matter where you live or how phenomenal you are at anything, you will always be black. Perspective that you may as well accept it." (135)
"They possessed power because we gave them power, not because they were worthy of it." (177)