Loving Day by Mat Johnson – Book Review

Well, I finally got to check Mat Johnson‘s Loving Day off of my “To Be Read” list!

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Loving Day is funny, serious, light-hearted, deep, uplifting and slightly offensive all at the same time… Basically, I loved it!

It’s a satirical story about Warren Duffy, a biracial man who recently divorced overseas, and has come back home to Philadelphia following his father’s death in order to sell his father’s house — a possibly haunted, possibly condemnable, most definitely flammable, mansion in the ghetto. He’s not home long before finding out he has a “casually racist” teenage daughter named Tal. Despite his outward appearance of a white man, Warren views himself as black and really acknowledges only that side of himself. When Tal (who may have more problems than Warren himself does) comes to stay with him, he somehow manages to get involved in a cult/school filled with teachers and students struggling with the same identity issues.

As an incredibly light-skinned mixed chick who grew up in a very white neighborhood in West Virginia, this book hit home on so many levels! I struggled with race, identity, and where I “belonged” all through my childhood and Loving Day captured a lot of that in Warren and Tal’s journey. This is probably the first book I’ve read that seems to perfectly hit on what it’s like to be bi-racial in America.

As a child, I was in a school system where there were never more than three bi-racial students (including me) all through my elementary, junior, and high school years. The number of black students could be counted on my fingers. I was a bit of an outcast… too white to be accepted by the black kids and too black to ever be accepted by the white ones either. Somehow, the other mixed kids didn’t seem to have it so bad. It was in high school that I realized it’s okay to be mixed, as long as you look black… If you’re skin is so light that most people passing you on the street assume you’re white, the assumption is that you can’t be trusted.

So I already knew I was going to love this novel by the second page, when I read:

I’m not white, but I can feel the eyes of the few people outside on me, people who must think that I am, because I look white, and as such what the hell am I doing here? This disconnect in my racial projection is one of the things I hate. It goes in a subcategory I call “America.” … I hate that because I know I’m black. My mother was black — that counts, no matter how pale and Irish my father was. So I shall not be rebuked. I will not be rejected.

Warren Duffy, at the beginning of Loving Day, was dealing with some of the same emotions I felt as a child.

As the novel goes on you meet some hilarious, truly lovable characters that help him on his journey to come to terms with and define his own identity, instead of allowing others to define it for him. Just when you think you’ve got the supporting cast in this book figured out, you learn something new about them you’re suddenly seeing them differently. (I’m dying to tell you all about them, but I want you to read the book and… well, spoilers! So if you read the book (or have already read it) shoot me a message and let’s talk about One Drop, Roslyn, Spider, Sunita, or Tosha!?!?!)

It’s hard to find a book that deals with such tough, emotional issues as Loving Day does (race, death, surprise parenting, etc.) and manages to have you laughing throughout, but somehow Mat Johnson pulls it off.

As far as ranking goes… I’m torn between a 4 and a 5 so I’m saying 4.5. My hesitation on a straight 5 is because it was hard to read the terms “mulatto” and “Oreo” so many times. I’m aware that’s because of my own past negative experiences and it’s hard for me to see the words in any way other than racist… even when they’re not specifically being used that way. I’ll definitely be reading it again in the future though!

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What if it were YOUR time to pay up?

Have you ever settled on a book?  You know, your buddy suggests this awesome book that you just HAVE to read, but when you read the jacket you’re like, “Dude, you’ve GOT to be kidding me?”9781101905142

That’s about what happened when I chose The Invoice by Jonas Karlsson.  I browsed through my choices, saw other books that seemed right up my alley, but ultimately settled on The Invoice entirely based upon the fact that it had the best reviews.

Apparently, it’s okay to “settle” sometimes…

I knew I was going to enjoy this book by the second page, loved it by page 50, and it took me all of two days to read it’s 204 pages. (That’s impressive when you’ve got a job, two dogs and a clingy teenager who’s been gone for a week demanding that you put down the book and watch Supernatural with her.)

You’re never told the narrator’s name (which I honestly didn’t realize until I started writing this post), but his life is thrown into a complete loop when he receives an invoice from a company he’s never heard of for an amount he could never pay.  After all, he works part-time in a video shop where he apparently doesn’t bother to put out the open side until after lunch.

He later learns that the government (every government, really) has begun charging for happiness and that the mistake he assumed was made in his amount wasn’t in his favor!  As he argues the case for how much of a loser he really is, his happiness score only goes up (along with the amount due).

While you gotta feel for the guy, it’s hard not to laugh at his continued misfortune.

While I loved the narrator, what really kept me from being able to tear myself away from the story was the way it constantly kept me asking what was going to happen next.   Once I would get the answer to one question, I had about three more that needed answering (like what they can do to stop your experiences if they’re not going to kill you)!

This book forces you to ask the question, what would happen if you had to pay for your Experienced Happiness… and what if you were too happy to be able to pay?

What really got to me was that I can totally relate to the guy’s E.H. type.  While I’ve definitely had my ups and downs (as we all have) I tend to be happy with relatively little.  I work part-time, watch television when I can and if you give me a good book and some time to write I’m pretty much ecstatic.

It does have a few “naughty” words in it, but I’d recommend The Invoice for anyone age 15+.  About the only negative I can possibly say about this novel is that I wish it had been longer.  I was actually sad when it ended and I had to put it down (please see that this is deducted from my E.H. score).

 

Thanks so much to the  Blogging for Books program for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for this review.

 

Evil Queen to Batman

This week’s “So you don’t know me, but” letter was written by Evilqueenofdeath (aka my teenage daughter).  You should also head over to Holmanese to read her Eminem and Rhianna’s “Monster” post! Enjoy 🙂

Dear Batman,

So you don’t know me but I just wanted to say that I love you. Not like in a romantic way but in a you’re awesome kinda way.

The whole lets save the city and only focus on that and nothing else thing though… gets annoying. You need to pay attention to other things. I mean, in the new video game you got Barbara killed.  Well not really, but you thought you had gotten her killed. You almost got Tim Drake killed.

I’m sorry if I seem to be going against you but you kinda make it hard not to. Again, though, I do think your awesome.

Ugh, its hard to write to you. I feel like if I say something stupid or really bad you’ll come and beat me up or something.

Well since I have nothing else to say, goodbye and good luck saving Gotham.

Sincerely,

Evil Queen (Alexis)

Note to Self: They’re not real. They’re only in your head!

I'm glad I can talk to you...Some background:  In order to maintain my focus on writing a novel (and basically give myself a kick in the pants), I signed up for an online class on Writers Digest University titled “12 Weeks to a First Draft”.  I’m on Week 4.

I submitted my assignment last week and anxiously awaited the feedback from my instructor.  If felt like I was on a writer’s high or something.  I was feeling absolutely awesome about my story, my characters, and everything in my little world  seemed great.  I couldn’t wait to hear from my instructor all about my brilliance.

The next morning, I received the following comments:  “You do a great job of defining these characters, what motivates them, what their conflicts are, what their strengths and weakness are and you write excellent dialogue.  You have a great sense of POV…”  (See, I knew I was brilliant!  Hello Cloud 9!!)

And then she went on to talk about my main character, Bonnie:  “sometimes her thoughts and actions come off unsympathetic…”  And, in regards to her actions after her boyfriend died: “If she really loved Eric she would act far differently.”  (And… my feet are back on the ground.  Is that my heart in my shoe?) Continue reading → Note to Self: They’re not real. They’re only in your head!