Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Review: Manhattan Dreaming by Anita Heiss

Title: Manhattan Dreaming
Author: Anita Heiss
Publisher: Random House
ISBN: 9781741668926
Category: chick lit, aboriginal
Rating: M for adult themes

The premise of this book is this: a young, black (I'm talking Australian black, btw - so Aboriginal) woman gets offered a job in New York City and moves to get over a heartbreak. Who is a young, black woman moving to NYC because she's done with Australia (see: always being let down)? Let me give you a hint, she has two thumbs and is writing this here blog.

After picking it up, I told Andrea about it and she said "Is she writing your life story?" because honestly, based on the blurb it is just that. But see, this is where things get interesting. I have a friend that is Lauren, she dates a man she knows is no good for her, but she continues to stay with him. I have the gang of great girlfriends, I have the supportive parents. So this book should resonate with me, right? Well, no it didn't.

My main failing is that I feel it is trying too hard to be something it isn't. I felt I was getting continually hit over the head with "LOOK AT ME, I'M LIKE CARRIE BRADSHAW/BRIDGET JONES BUT I'M BLACK. I'M BLACK. I LISTEN TO BLACK MUSIC, I WORK WITH BLACK PEOPLE, I AM BLACK BLACK BLACK". To me, my culture is so within me I don't feel I have to continually hit people over the head with it. I use the word tidda (it is my best friend's nickname), I wrote a thesis on Aboriginal identity in Hip Hop music, I get it.

This has all the makings of something great - a heroine who is funny, she's going on an adventure to find herself - but it lacks, well, something. I relate more to Bridget Jones - a thirty something, white, Londoner - than I do to this Aboriginal woman who lives a life that is similar to my own. The ending is trite, and we after a whole novel where we are told that Lauren hates being stereotyped, she does the same thing to bring us an ending that literally made me roll my eyes. I'd say this was some clever post modern take on the way Aboriginal people are portrayed in society and how that intersects with how they live their life - but I don't think this book is that deep.

2 out of 5.


Andrea said...

"To me, my culture is so within me I don't feel I have to continually hit people over the head with it."

I think that can be a real flaw when people try to write about a culture that's not white on rice. Less is often more. The more you 'make statements' in your dialogue the more forced it becomes. It should be natural, a given, flow out through the story.

I notice it a lot in (ok revealing my dirty secrets here)twilight fanfic where people try to write about the Quileutes. They feel because it's about a cultural minority they have to drop in obvious cultural references and they just seem so forced and plonked there. There's no context. I'd rather see the culture shine out through the story.

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