Do you ever dream of starting again in a new skin?
August 31, 2014 9:17 AM   Subscribe

Uncomfortable in His Own Skin ‘Your Face in Mine,’ by Jess Row, a Novel About Changing Race: [New York Times]
"When literary fiction dares examine the issue of race at all, it is usually done in an exceedingly tone-deaf way (think William Styron’s Confessions Of Nat Turner or Kathryn Stockett’s The Help) or from a somewhat safe remove (think Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue). It always seems as if the story is accompanied by a blaring announcement that it’s time for this (white) protagonist to learn something. Sometimes the pedantic drum-banging can get so excessive it drowns out everything else, including the inclination to tell a good story. If nothing else, the debut novel from Jess Row, Your Face In Mine, is a refreshing plunge into the deep end of the race conversation." [A.V. Club]
"Has it really been nearly 55 years since John Howard Griffin, a white journalist from Dallas, darkened his skin to pass as a black man, then chronicled his largely unpleasant experiences traveling through the Deep South in “Black Like Me,” a book that would rock more than a few people’s worlds upon publication in 1961? One wishes that Griffin, who died in 1980, could be around to weigh in on Jess Row’s debut novel, “Your Face in Mine,” in which a white man also elects to assume an African-American guise. This is a tale of passing for the age of Obama and medical tourism in which the black male would appear to have skyrocketed from the pariah of Griffin’s pre-civil-rights moment to “the perfect vehicle, the vessel for every American desire.”" [Boston Globe]
More reviews from: [NPR Books] [L.A. Times] [Slate] [New York Times]
posted by Fizz (6 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I just started this novel last night and thus far it's written with a kind of brutal honesty that makes you question your own ideas about identity, culture, and belonging. Considering the recent events of Ferguson, it seemed appropriate to read a book that forces you to think about race in a critical way.
posted by Fizz at 9:27 AM on August 31, 2014

Jess Row, William Styron, Kathryn Stockett, Michael Chabon, Dwight Garner... We should include more than just white authors in our take on "the race conversation" in contemporary fiction.
posted by gem tactics at 3:44 PM on August 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

gem tactics,

The A.V. Club article references those authors (Styron, Stockett, Chabon, & Garner) specifically in the context that they have attempted to write about race in a tone-deaf way and that Row has written a book which is by contract not written in such a way.

I too agree that this issue should be discussed in a broader historical context and that voices of all race and gender should be considered.
posted by Fizz at 4:24 PM on August 31, 2014

It might be possible in a few decades from now (and tens of millions of investment at the very least) to take the technology behind this relatively primitive programmable tattoo device and implant a more advanced and delicate mesh that would cover the entire body, and become any color, or combination of colors or patterns you choose, and change them at will in just a few minutes.

I thought of a different application a few years ago for this kind of device in a surveillance-saturated world would be to use it to create a dazzle camouflage pattern to confuse facial recognition systems. I never before considered its use for the entire body for the purpose of changing or obfuscating one's race, and all the complicated social elements and questions that would come along with it.
posted by chambers at 6:20 PM on August 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

This book feels like a Science Fiction novel and yet it feels like something that is maybe already happening. It's unsettling.
posted by Fizz at 6:38 PM on August 31, 2014

This turns out to be his old friend and bandmate Martin Lipkin, a Jewish guy who has undergone what he calls “racial reassignment surgery.” Inside, Martin always felt black. The surgery, he says, has made him whole.

Really? Take an idea like this, but make sure to put it in a way that mocks another group of people in the process? Really poor choice.
posted by evilangela at 11:17 PM on August 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

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