The Racism of People Who Love You

Mehta pulls off an impressive set of balancing acts, weaving theory through stories, knitting personal memories, public histories, family dynamics, and cultural norms together with brutal honesty and no small amount of tenderness as she attempts to understand hurtful behavior without excusing it.

The Racism of People Who Love You: Essays on Mixed Race Belonging (2023) by Samira K. Mehta
Cannonball Read 15, review #3

Book: 5 stars
Audiobook narration: 5 stars

First things first

Full Disclosure: The author is a friend. That doesn’t have any bearing on my review of the book, though it did affect some of my experience of reading (listening to) the book.

The review

The Racism of People Who Love You is a very good book, and you should read it. In seven thoughtful, compelling, and sometimes (frequently) devastating essays, author Samira Mehta examines the broad concept of what she refers to as “mixedness” through the lens of her particular lived experience as the daughter of a South Asian immigrant father and a white American mother. The essays are about her and her family and about race, culture, and belonging both within and beyond her family. They are also about gender, friendship, work, and class, among other things. Mehta touches on a lot in this fairly brief book, but it all comes up organically because Mehta’s identity and experiences are touched by all of it. Throughout, Mehta pulls off an impressive set of balancing acts, weaving theory through stories, knitting personal memories, public histories, family dynamics, and cultural norms together with brutal honesty and no small amount of tenderness as she attempts to understand hurtful behavior without excusing it.

Belonging of the sort under discussion here is, by definition, a communal activity, so I hope many members of many communities will read this book. Mehta’s writing is clear and compelling, and she moves deftly between anecdote and analysis. The combination means that once the book is in paperback, I can easily imagine it being used in classrooms, passed around between friends, and slipped into the hands of family members. That last possibility is the one I hope for most: that mixed-race people find these essays and see themselves and their loved ones reflected in ways that resonate. In addition to the power of feeling “seen,” even—perhaps especially—when what is seen is difficult to witness, I think the book offers tools that could help mixed-race folks have conversations with their loved ones that might be difficult but are definitely necessary (and precisely because of the realities and power dynamics that make them difficult).

A note on the audiobook:

I was concerned that the fact that it’s my friend’s book, which is specifically about her experience, but not my friend’s voice might be a distraction, but it wasn’t. The narration was great. Fun fact: I mentioned to the author that there’s a little bit of vocal resemblance, and she told me she and the narrator had spoken of it and that the narrator leaned into some of the places where their voices and accents are already similar, which I thought was cool.

No one to blame but myself

Booty Hunter’s ridiculous alien physiologies come wrapped in a surprisingly decent plot with some unexpectedly beautiful moments of found family, a space battle that actually kind of works, and a soulmate coupling that would be, by turns, both very hot and very sweet—with shockingly healthy relationship psychology to boot—if it weren’t for the part where the hero’s occupation is kidnapping women to be forced into sex work in the high-end prostitution outfit he and his brothers run.

Booty Hunter (2019) by KC Cross (aka JA Huss)
Harem Station Series, book 1
Cannonball Read 15, review #2
Rating: Too rapey to rate

WARNING: No joke – this one contains absolutely nonconsensual sex, i.e. rape.

First things first

See warning above.

The review

Booty Hunter is a sexy space romp featuring found family, interplanetary espionage, indentured sexual servitude, and—

No, wait, that sounds bad. Let’s try again.

Ok. Booty Hunter is the heartwarming story of how a person-trafficker with two dicks falls for his new slave and her glowing hoo-hah…

Oh, no, that’s…that’s not better.

Booty Hunter’s ridiculous alien physiologies come wrapped in a surprisingly decent plot with some unexpectedly beautiful moments of found family, a space battle that actually kind of works, and a soulmate coupling that would be, by turns, both very hot and very sweet—with shockingly healthy relationship psychology to boot—if it weren’t for the part where the hero’s occupation is kidnapping women to be forced into sex work in the high-end prostitution outfit he and his brothers run. Or the fact that the hero meets the heroine on her first day in captivity and immediately instructs the robot overseer to subject her to their “quality control test”—read: public sexual assault—a second time. Or the part where this is all glossed over with a combination of “well, we can only get to the ones that are kicked out for being a problem, so it’s ok that we take those”; “we let them earn their freedom eventually”; and “but they’re treated so well!”

I finished it because I honestly had to see where it would go, and there’s some good storytelling here, to be honest. But the consent issues (to put it VERY mildly) are more than I can roll with.

Did I mention the part where the heroine having her nipples and genitals pierced against her will is played for laughs?

Yeah.

Story: Too rapey to rate
Narrator: Not rated

Jason, you sweet, feral doofus

I figure I have to be willing to roll with some ridiculous when I read books about folks who are sometimes non-human animals. If shifter ridiculousness and insta-love are a type of ridiculous you’re willing to roll with, this one might work for you.

Claimed (2016) by Laurann Dohner and Kele Moon
Nightwind series, book 1
Cannonball Read 15, review 1

WARNING: Contains one character accidentally “mating” (bonding someone to him for life) another character without their consent.Also contains kidnapping, threat of sexual assault, talk of eating humans in a non-sexytimes way, biting and consumption of blood in a sexytimes way, and Miscellaneous Shifter RidiculousnessTM.

HERE THERE BE SPOILERS! (But not until the “Other Observations” section.)

CAVEAT LECTOR