BOOK REVIEW: “IN EVERY MIRROR SHE’S BLACK” — LOLA AKINMADE ÅKERSTRÖM

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By Ezioma Kalu

This book tells the tale of being black in a place far away from home, in the lives of three characters.

For so many people, being black is a lifestyle that’s innate. For them it means the sameness of every black person; Acting in a certain way because a particular black person acts like that, or loving a certain thing, because a particular black person loves it, and so, all black people must have similar taste. But this book defines what it means to be black, even in a country far away from home, a place where being black is new.

Kemi, Muna and Brittany-Rae are three black women who are somehow summoned by Jonny Von Lundin, a successful heir to a business empire in Sweden.

Kemi, as a professional marketing executive, who leaves her work in Andersen and Associates in America at the spur of the moment, to go for a more elevated position with mouth-watering benefits in the business empire of the Von Lundins in Sweden.

She’s excellent in her work, ambitious and brilliant, but with a love life hanging on a weak thread. Which goes to say, you can never really have it all. Kemi is a go-getter, who believes there’s more to conquer, there’s more to earn, so why won’t she go for it? She dreams of climbing to the peak of her career, and when an opportunity offers a ladder in the form of Jonny Von Lundin, she hurriedly grabs it with both hands. Though her love life sucks and nothing pleasant to watch, she’s an excellent decision maker and innovator. What she lacks in her love life, she makes up for in her career.

Then there’s Brittany-Rae, a beautiful, black model, who works as a flight assistant, and whose meeting with Jonny Von Lundin in London, births the beginning of an amorous relationship between them.

Brittany-Rae is ambitious too, but in a selfish way. She wants the easy life; the life Jonny Von Lundin dangles before her. A life of bliss and ease. A life she can only lead in her subconscious, which she is willing to have a bite of it in reality, even if it will cost her a relationship she has built over the years.

Anyway, what’s a relationship that cannot be built or broken at will? She moves to Sweden to be Jonny’s queen in the Von Lundin’s dynasty. But will everything be sweet and rosy for our dear Brittany-Rae? We also see the life of Muna, a young Somali refugee, whose entire life is a tragic film on its own. All her life, everyone she’s ever loved, leaves at some point. She has never had a moment of bliss. It has always been from a tragic story and situation to the next.

These three black women meet in the Von Lundins empire, Kemi as a worker, Brittany as a spouse and Muna as a cleaner. In the lives of these women, the author portrays what it means to be black, and not what the cliché narrative of being black, have been desperately shoving down our throats.

To be black is to be human. To make mistakes, to be in love and lust. To be a star, to be ambitious, to crave a life of comfort. To be black doesn’t mean automatically being friends with every black person in the block, it means being who you are, a human, whether friendly or not.

To be black doesn’t mean automatically picking the side of a fellow black person you meet in diaspora. It does not mean regarding every black person as your sister or brother, just because you share the same skin colour, against your will. No. It means the freedom to be who you want to be and being friends with people you’re comfortable with, irrespective of their skin colour.

To be black is simply to be human, a rational and free human who is liable to make decisions. To be black is to be human who isn’t infallible, a human who doesn’t have life figured out, a human who loves and hates, a human who breaks relationships and mends them.

The book explores the themes of sexism, racism, tokenism, inclusion, betrayal. It teaches us the beauty of heterogeneity, in a world that’s constantly forcing homogeneity on everyone. It is okay to be different, to be eccentric. What’s not okay is making people believe they’re not different, they’re like everyone else. When in reality, they are not. They have special needs, they need to embrace them, accept them. What’s fun about homogeneity when everyone can be different, unique, and peaceful? There is no arithmetic formula to exist in this world. Because this is everybody’s first life, so everybody should be allowed to exist in their own skins, their own bodies, as they deem fit.

“In every mirror she’s black” is a very interesting read, one that would make you see the world in every character. We learn about the American world, and the Swedish world, with a subtle touch of Somali, Nigeria and other African countries here and there.

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