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Review: We Are Not Like Them

3/5 stars


Christine Pride, a Black editor, and Jo Piazza, a white author, have teamed up to write this novel (and another that came out in 2023) about a pair of best friends - one white and one Black.


Jen and Riley have been best friends since they were little kids, even though their adult lives have gone in very different directions. Jen is married and pregnant, and planning to give up her part time work to be a full time mom, while her husband, a white police officer, works. Riley is on the rise as a TV journalist, and spends the majority of her time focused on her work. The two find it difficult to find the time to get together, but when they do it always feels like a breath of fresh air. That is, until Jen's husband is involved in the shooting of an unarmed young Black boy... and Riley is asked to cover the story. The narrative is told in alternating chapters between the two friends, and clearly shows the strain the incident has on each of them individually, and as a friend "couple."


I really liked the dynamic between the two, and the issues brought up. My problem with the novel is that it felt one-sided - like Riley was the one giving up more to maintain the friendship than Jen was. That said, the ending leaves the door open for the relationship to continue to grow, and I do think that, while Riley did the most bending in the narrative, Jen had the potential and willingness to do the most moving forward. I just wish we'd gotten to see more of that in this book.


I also liked the conversations about motherhood - Jen's lifelong wish to have a child, and Riley's choice to be childless, at least for now. Despite their very different experiences and desires, I love the way they love each other, and find ways to communicate that love even when there's tension between them.


I read an article about the two authors, and found it really interesting to learn about their writing style(s) and how they approached co-writing a novel - this passage in particular:


“People put the two of us in a very specific box,” Piazza says. “They assume Christine writes our Black characters and I write our white characters, which couldn’t be further from the truth.” “We both write everyone,” Pride confirms. “And the characters are better for it, because race is only one dimension of them — and of us.”

 

UP NEXT: The Salt Grows Heavy, by Cassandra Khaw





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