In Every Mirror She’s Black, by Lola Akinmade Akerstrom

The blurb describes this as a book “for anyone looking for insight into what it means to be a Black woman in the world,” and I guess it is, but it’s also, quite specifically, a book about what it’s like to be a Black woman in Sweden, a very specific niche that the author has lived experience of. The women are Kemi, a successful marketing executive headhunted by a Swedish firm who needs to “diversify” their team; Brittany, who falls in love with Jonny, owner of the firm that hired Kemi, and Muna, a refugee who ends up cleaning the office building that Jonny and Kemi both work in.

The three women are from very different backgrounds and have little in common (and rarely interact during the story); what they do have in common is all being Black women who have come from other places to try to integrate into the extremely white society of Sweden. The other thing they have in common is Jonny, and one of the problems I had with the novel is that to me, this rich white boy who appears to be on the autism spectrum is such an unappealing character (not primarily because of the autism; more because of the rich-guy privilege and there being no sense of anything likeable about him) that some of the plot twists, especially involving his and Brittany’s storyline, strained credibility.

This is a very engaging story, but also an often bleak one that doesn’t hold out a lot of hope for the question of whether there’s a place for Black women to fit in and be successful in Sweden. I won’t spoil any of the women’s endings, but let’s say nobody gets an ending that offers a lot of optimism about the outcome. It does feel like a very realistic portrayal of the racism these women face in ways that are very specific to the country they are in.

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