I Don’t Know What to Think

I Don’t Know What to Think

Hello and happy Wednesday. I hate the idea that some books are meant to be read by some people because what it implies is that they are not meant to be read by some others, you know? I feel like books are there, they must be available and accessible, and as consumers we are the ones to decide the types of books that we want in our lives. Now, I’m saying this because I recently read In Darkness by Nick Lake and my one persisting thought was “I wish I knew more about Haiti.”
I kept thinking that this book would’ve impacted me a whole lot more had I known more about the context and the history of where and when it was taking place. But I also thought that no, that’s not the idea of a book, is it? I mean, it’s great that I asked myself questions, but nobody should read a book feeling that they missed out on something because they needed to know more about a topic. Or at least I don’t think anybody should. 

I read this book between May 12th and May 18th, 2020 and gave it three stars. Now, before I continue this review, I want to share another reason why I don’t know what to think about this book, and it is the fact that the author is white. This book is set in Haiti and follows not one but two main characters, both of whom are black since most people in Haiti are black, and this white dude writes an entire novel, half of which is narrated in the first person? And he isn’t even Haitian! He’s British. Talk about neocolonialism.

No but really, am I saying that a white British guy shouldn’t be writing a book about black Haitians? I’m not going to answer that, but I know for a fact that there are many own-voices novels about Haiti that don’t have the recognition that they should because people are reading In Darkness instead of their story. Proof of that is the fact that I’m reviewing Nick Lake’s book in this blog. I keep saying that I will be more mindful about the authors I read and the fact is that I’m not doing a great job at that, so I’m sorry and please hold me accountable. 

The story itself was hard to get into. I felt like I didn’t make any progress on the first three days and that I had to force myself to keep reading. Then the reading experience got better for me, although clearly this is neither an entertaining nor an enjoyable book. I anticipated it to be more hard-hitting, and objectively, it was; it just didn’t reach me and my feelings the way I thought it would. 

We get two perspectives and two timelines: now, told in first person by a fifteen-year-old gangster, and then, a third-person narration about Toussaint L’Ouverture, a black enslaved man who led Haiti to its revolution and freedom from the French. These two characters, as we find out throughout the story, somehow share a soul because they both had twin sisters who died, so their souls are thought to be incomplete. I think this would be a required reading at school if the English and the history teachers decided to have a project about Haiti. No, that’s not a compliment. 

Do you have any recommendations of books written by people from historically oppressed countries or ethnicities? Let me know in the comments. 

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila