Dead Dead Girls

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I use my Reading Schedule Generator to set daily page goals. But sometimes I exceed the goals, finishing books quicker than the schedule dictates. Most often because I want get to the exciting conclusion.

Other times, because I'm thinking: Good Lord, let's get this over with.

For this book, the latter reason applied.

But it was on the NYT's list of the Best Mystery Novels of 2021! (I've now read six out of the 11 titles there.) To put it as diplomatically as I can, I suspect some Diversity/Equity/Inclusion scoring was at work at the NYT: Black female author, Black lesbian protagonist, and

[Click for spoiler] a serial killer who just happens to be a racist White cop.

I always do a plot summary, so here you go: As a teen in 1916 Harlem, Louise is abducted with three other girls, for some nefarious purpose. But using only her wits, courage, and a sharpened pen, she defeats the kidnapper and leads the other girls to safety. The villain escapes justice, but Louise is lauded as the "Hero of Harlem".

Ten years later, in the roaring 20s, it's the Harlem Renaissance. Louise is a waitress by day, speakeasy dancer by night. She smokes a lot—every cigarette is mentioned, it seems—and has a romance going on with Rosa Maria, one of the inhabitants of her rooming house. And someone is murdering young Black girls. Louise's hot temper lands her in legal jeopardy, but she's offered an out: help the NYC detective with his investigation into the crimes, and she'll avoid jail.

And of course, she does.

I'm not sure how much sense the plot makes. The dialog is wooden, the prose is choppy and cliché-ridden. The ending strains credulity.

The author, Nekesa Afia, writes with an underlying seething resentment and anti-White hostility. In her "Historical Note" at the end:

Every notable contribution to 1920s culture, especially in American cities such as New Orleans, Chicago, and Dead Dead Girls' setting, New York City, was made by Black people, then stolen and repackaged for white consumption.

Um. Arguable, at best. And, yes, Ms. Afia adopts the capitalize-Black/lowercase-white style throughout. A few lines down:

I could have set Louise's story in modern times, with the continuous and excessive murders of Black and Brown bodies by white people, and almost nothing in the story would have changed…

Well, according to this tweet (allegedly based on FBI statistics):

Blacks murder Whites at 4.9x the rate Whites murder Blacks (non-Hispanic)

A Black person is 9.3x more likely to murder a White than a White person is to murder a Black

Blacks murder Hispanics at 3.5x the rate Hispanics murder Blacks

A Black person is 2.8x more likely to murder a Hispanic than a Hispanic person is to murder a Black

So if anything is "excessive"… (Most murders are intraracial, of course.)

Last Modified 2024-01-13 5:03 AM EDT