A Return to Arms by Sheree L. Greer ~ Book Review by Mel

a-return-to-armsTitle: A Return to Arms

Author: Sheree L. Greer

Publisher: Bold Strokes Publishing

Cover Artist: Jeanine Henning

Rating: 4.00 of 5 Stars

Publication Date: 03/15/2016

Length: Novel (~ 50K-100K)

Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Lesbian

Blurb:

When Toya meets Folami and joins the activist collective RiseUP!, she thinks she’s found her life’s purpose. Folami’s sensuality and her passion for social justice leave Toya feeling that, at last, she’s met someone she can share all parts of her life with. But when a controversial police shooting blurs the lines between the personal and the political, Toya is forced to examine her identity, her passions, and her allegiances.

Folami, a mature and dedicated activist, challenges Toya’s commitment to the struggle while threatening to pull her back into the closet to maintain the intense connection they share. However, Nina, a young, free-spirited artist, invites Toya to explore the intersections between sexual and political freedom.

With the mounting tensions and social unrest threatening to tear the community apart, can Toya find a safe place to live and love while working to uplift her people?

My View:

I won’t pretend that I have any clue what it is like to be a person of colour, neither in the US, nor in Germany, where I live, nor any other place. I don’t. I can’t even imagine.

I picked this up because always talking about wanting more diversity and diverse books and then not reading them or books by POC authors is really not okay. Someone has to start somewhere. So I do.

It doesn’t matter that I can’t fully relate to the events or completely understand what and how things like these are happening. I want to learn, I want to bear witness, and I hope that by reading and reviewing other people will get inspired and put deeds where their mouths are, too.

The following will not be me saying and calling how it is, how life is for POC in the US, how I think they should act in order to achieve justice. Not only is my life experience too far away from it to come to a valid conclusion, but I’m not a very political person as well. That doesn’t mean I don’t know what I want or that I don’t have beliefs, I just don’t know how or if and what politics could do about it.

I’d rather tell you what my experience was while reading this book, what thoughts I took from it, and how it challenged me.

Let me start by saying that Toya, a young black lesbian woman is our protagonist. She’s a photographer and tries to find her way in love, but moreover in the Black Lives Matter movement.

I won’t lie, this is hard stuff, a matter of life and death, and I’m left with a horrible feeling behind. Why? Because we’re not talking fiction here. This shit happens. Police shootings and violence, racial profiling, and nothing happens or changes.

They are all symptoms of a centuries old problem, a cancer that continues to rot our country to the core.

There is so much struggle with what can be done to achieve change. There is so much hopelessness. So much sacrifice?

What makes people care? And here’s the point this book made me crucially ask myself what makes me get my lazy arse of the sofa and do something. My reactions while reading the chants, the desperation for change, the exhaustion and frustration that goes into mobilising people, it all left me… exhausted? Empty? Immobile? It’s not that I don’t care. But do I care enough?

I’ve got no answer for this. I’m not particularly proud of myself here.

I think it’s pretty realistic how there are so many different views and expectations within a movement on how best to proceed and achieve something. This shows how exhausting it can be and how strong resentiments can be, even within a group that is basically fighting for the same thing. It also addresses what personal sacrifices one has to bring or can’t bring when fighting for a greater cause.

“I care about my people’s progress more than I care about my personal happiness.”
“But what kind of life is that?”
“It’s a sacrifice,” Folami said. “A necessary sacrifice.”

What totally threw me, however, was the misogyny and homophobia from some of the men involved in the movement. It was so very upsetting.

The homosexual agenda continues to make a mockery of our families, and what’s worse, continues to ever confuse and confound our sense of identity as Afrikans, our sense of self. Our sense of supreme self.

What is even more awful is that Toya’s lover, Folami, struggles so much with this herself. At times, it seems, she herself believes that she as a woman and lesbian is at fault, and it takes quite a while for her to find her backbone.

 

At the core, this book is the story of a young woman, finding her way through a difficult and hopeless time, but a romantic plot is woven into it. The writing is slow and through the device of photography, I feel, brilliantly captures details and atmosphere. The dialogue reads very authentic, as do the characters themselves.
I think that the pacing could have been better and the plot and developments could have moved along faster.

From the dedication, I gather that the author is putting her heart on the pages of this book, that she not only works through what has happened to her and her people, but that she wants to encourage to fight on and to not give up.

For my mother, who held me after the Trayvon Martin verdict, who comforted me through my tears, my rage, and my frustration, who told me hopelessness is not an option.

Does she succeed?

Links

A Return to Arms on Goodreads
Bold Strokes Publishing
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA

I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.

Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

Brandilyn
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