In Every Mirror She’s Black by Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Have you seen an Oprah Winfrey in Sweden?

No? Then you can’t be great here. Black people can’t make it in Sweden – This is what they meant to tell Kemi, but Kemi needed to experience it for herself. In this book, Lola showed how skin color precedes anything else.

And for you to be more than your skin color, you need to do a lot more to be seen, be a lot more.

The title “In every mirror she’s black” aptly encapsulates the story of all three women, Kemi, Brittany, and Muna.

Kemi, a highly sought-after marketing strategist in the USA, ended up in a mundane role in Sweden. She isn’t sure why the biggest marketing firm has poached her as a Global and diversity director, but she just wants out of her current company and yearns for a fresh start somewhere, and Sweden seems to present itself as a viable option.

Unfortunately for Kemi, her worst fears were confirmed. She was only a redundant body in a ceremonial role. Jonny poached Kemi for her skin color to represent diversity in a predominantly white company. It wasn’t for her brilliance; neither was it for her experience.

It was for her skin color.

They wanted to look diversified, and black seemed to be the color that screamed diversity in a white-dominated company, in fact, in a company full of only white people.

Brittany -Anne, a flight attendant, seemed to have her life put together; a black lawyer fiancé ready to marry her, understands her routine and can take care of her. It all seemed perfect until this white man named Jonny bulldozes his way comes into her life and distorts her well-put-together, or, let me say, best-laid plans.

For Britanny, Jonny wasn’t just a money bank; he was a safety net, something that gave her stability. And most importantly, it was the fierce way in which she thought he loved her that made her move to Sweden and get married to him. And again, for Jonny, what he saw was a skin color that looked like something from his past he wanted to preserve. A fetish.

Muna’s story was the saddest for me, and I particularly enjoyed hers. A refugee struggling to make it in Sweden with her past as her second shadow working as a cleaner in Jonny’s office in Sweden.

This story is well told. I liked how Lola managed to tell the stories of these three women from their own points of view without confusing us. My worry was why Lola had to make these three women connected to this one man, Jonny.

Jonny was not just a passing event in their lives; he was pivotal.

For Brittany, he represented stability, for Kemi, he represented a clean start from America, and for Muna, he represented a savior and a benefactor somehow.

For a book that centered on racism, she sure made the white man indispensable and pivotal.

I know Lola said in the author’s note that she isn’t trying to link Johnny’s behavior to autism. But, she was trying to build a complex character in a way that would create awareness about special needs kids. Here, I didn’t think Jonny had an undiagnosed condition.

If anyone thinks so, please share.

Anyway, I think it is just a way of not taking responsibility for anything. He messed up Brittany’s life. He was in love with someone Brittany was a container for and made her believe that it was she he adored. It was how Lola sort of shifted the responsibility of Jonny’s behavior from Johnny to his parents and family that irked me. As though he was justified in his behavior, in his attitude to her and also as though his parents’ attitude suddenly had an explanation, and so everything made sense, and they weren’t at fault.

I know Lola left a message in her author’s note that she isn’t trying to justify any behavior, but the book said otherwise.

The ending was unpredictable, but for me, it sort of just wrapped up nicely like a neatly tired bow.

The language is simple and easy to understand. It is well structured and balances your emotions just fine.

Themes

  • Love
  • Family
  • Immigration
  • Racism
  • Suicide
  • Possessiveness
  • Inadequacy

Favorite quotes

✨ Privilege comes in levels, Brit,” he continued. “You have the Privilege he has given you. But you will never have the Privilege he has just because he breathes.

✨Being a Black woman didn’t automatically mean she was professionally qualified to handle race relations and gender issues on a corporate level.

✨ Ragnar didn’t care about her. He was married to his first choice. He was just another Connor who wanted to sample her like cheese handed out on toothpicks.”

✨ Silence is a slow, poisonous death.

✨ In Alexandria, he’d learned how to taste her just right. In London, he’d learned how she wanted foreplay. In Miami, he’d perfected his rhythm against her. In New York, he’d learned how to scrub her back in a bathtub to make her purr like his cougar. Their joke. In Los Angeles, she’d demanded he show her what he liked, and he’d died a painful death from pleasure.

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