In Every Mirror She's Black
by Lolá Ákínmádé Åkerström
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Pub Date 07 Sep 2021 | Archive Date 12 Sep 2021
SOURCEBOOKS Landmark, Sourcebooks Landmark
A timely and arresting debut for anyone looking for insight into what it means to be a Black woman in the world.
Three Black women are linked in unexpected ways to the same influential white man in Stockholm as they build their new lives in the most open society run by the most private people.
Successful marketing executive Kemi Adeyemi is lured from the U.S. to Sweden by Jonny von Lundin, CEO of the nation's largest marketing firm, to help fix a PR fiasco involving a racially tone-deaf campaign. A killer at work but a failure in love, Kemi's move is a last-ditch effort to reclaim her social life.
A chance meeting with Jonny in business class en route to the U.S. propels former model-turned-flight-attendant Brittany-Rae Johnson into a life of wealth, luxury, and privilege—a life she's not sure she wants—as the object of his unhealthy obsession.
And refugee Muna Saheed, who lost her entire family, finds a job cleaning the toilets at Jonny's office as she works to establish her residency in Sweden and, more importantly, seeks connection and a place she can call home.
Told through the perspectives of each of the three women, In Every Mirror She's Black is a fast-paced, richly nuanced yet accessible contemporary novel that touches on important social issues of racism, classism, fetishization, and tokenism, and what it means to be a Black woman navigating a white-dominated society.
Lola Akinmade Åkerström is an African-American (Nigerian-American) award-winning author, speaker, and photographer based in Sweden. This is her first novel.
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Average rating from 56 members
In Every Mirror She’s Black by Lola Akinmade Ankerstrom is a stunning fictional novel that gives the reader a real, raw, and unique perspective into the lives of three women in Stockholm, Sweden.
At first, the reader thinks that the lives and story lines between the three main female characters:
Kemi, Brittany-Rae, and Muna can have nothing whatsoever in common, however as the three separate stories are interweaved through the common character of Jonny, one finds many similarities.
This book is so unique. Through the eyes of these three women, one can see how brutal, imperfect, flawed, and raw society is in Sweden in this book. One can see, feel, and experience along with them the prejudices, the obstacles, and the inherent difficulties that are presented to not just women, but women of color, and women of different backgrounds, ethnicities, and financial backings. Yes, there were lighter elements of romance and passion, but it is balanced out nicely with the honest and clear lenses that are used to see the darker aspect of humanity and society.
The ending left me sad, but satisfied, and thankful I was able to read this stunning narrative.
Thank you NG and Sourcebooks Landmark for this wonderful arc in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion.
I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication.
What a book! Can you say rollercoaster?
In every mirror she's black is a beautiful, well-written debut that explores the complexities of being Black and female in a globalized world while seeking a better life.
The story centers around three Black women whose lives intersect in Sweden. As it unfolds it explores race, privilege, and class while following the pursuit of finding a place of belonging.
We meet Kemi, Brittany and Muna who all have very different backstories, but their common thread is a white man named Jonny, they’re all also on the verge of major life changes. Kemi is a successful marketing pro from the US hired to lead a diversity team at a top firm in Sweden. Brittany is a flight attendant who was is swept off her feet by a wealthy Swedish executive who wants to marry her and have her move to Sweden. Muna is a refugee from Somalia who arrives in Sweden and is determined to love this new country but is fighting demons from a traumatic experience that happened in her past. The book is told from the perspectives of all three women, each chapter moving between them to weave their stories together.
I found many moments insightful and others were shocking as the women navigated the ins and outs of a society where they clearly didn't fit. Throw in a dash of love and family expectations, and you have a recipe for a thought-provoking and gripping read.
Kemi, Brittany-Rae, and Muna all come to Stockholm for different reasons however, at some point their lives all converge and intersect due to one commonality, Johan (Jonny) von Lundin.
This book has left me with a lot to think about. Being a Black woman in Kentucky, I’ve never really contemplated life for Black people in places like Sweden until now. While the novel is about the experiences of 3 Black women in Stockholm, it’s also about isolation and it’s affects on our lives. It’s also about how we as Black people across the diaspora share common feelings of otherness and loneliness when we are isolated from our loved ones in predominantly white spaces. We have the same fears, the same hurt, the same anger, and the same intuition when it comes to racism It also shows how we cleave to or run from each other in these spaces out of fear, out of ignorance, or just out of (dis)comfort. This story also touches on topics such as the fetishization of Black women, autism, sex trafficking, and sexual harassment.
Kemi has it all- beauty, brains, the expensive home, and the successful career, however, for her those things aren’t enough.
If I had to compare her to a relatable character I would say she is Toni from Girlfriends or Molly from Insecure. Kemi wants more out of her life. She wants to advance in her career and she wants to have a loving relationship in her personal life. But how can she without having to sacrifice something or everything? Constantly questioning whether she is good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, Kemi is presented with what she sees as the opportunity of a lifetime by Johnny. Unsure of where her new position within Jonny’s company will take her, she takes the leap and relocates by herself to Sweden. Away from her family, friends, a culture she knows well, and people who look like her, her feelings of insecurity and inadequacy are only amplified. Things that she used to take for granted like going to get her hair done or meeting (Black) men (or people for that matter) on dating apps and at bars become a challenge. She is surrounded by people who speak another language, have personalities that seem as cold as the winter, and on top of that is the only Black person at her new job. Kemi wants more from her career and more from life but she is struggling to see the importance of family and stability over money and power.
After a tragedy that killed her already ill father,
Muna, along with her mother and brother, escape their home in Mogadishu, Somalia. Unfortunately, while on the boat fleeing to safety, tragedy befalls her family yet again this time taking the lives of her brother and mother. Now she is all alone without any known family left in the world, passing time at a facility for Refugee’s awaiting their chance for citizenship. Muna spends her days thinking about the people she’s lost and worrying that she will never have another chance at family or love as the isolation seems unending and unbearable. Along the way she meets friends and gets new opportunities but she just can’t stop losing people and it hurts her deeply.
Brittany-Rae had high hopes and dreams of becoming a fashion designer. Her goal was to be successful and rich so that she could afford all of the luxury and financial stability that her family never had. However, her trajectory changed from designer to model after meeting a big time fashion designer that quickly becomes her mentor. Years working for and under this man left Brittany traumatized so much so that she completely quit the fashion scene. Now at 38 she’s a flight attendant, has a very successful boyfriend who loves and adores her, but her head is still in the clouds wondering what her life would have been like if she were rich and her idea of successful. Then she met Jonny on one of her flights and her life changes forever.
There was so much to treasure in this book, from a standpoint of admiring fiction and from a place of recognizing the real issues that infuse this story. A book to enjoy, be challenged by, and share, and one of intricate and well-developed portraits of characters.
On the surface it might appear that Jonny Von Lundin is the only thing that connects Brittany, Kemi, and Muna but there's much more to this story. These three women are all strangers in Sweden and their otherness - their color, their heritage, their origins- set them apart from others. It's a tough read in spots as you might find yourself reflecting on what they face. And Jonny is not the romantic hero you might wish for but instead a businessman who approaches the women for his own purposes and has his own issues. I liked that each woman told her own story and that it wasn't immediately obvious how things would conclude. They've each got a distinct voice which adds to the layered nature of the novel. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. An excellent and thought provoking read.