Book Review: The Blacker The Berry… by Wallace Thurman

The Blacker The Berry… is a Harlem Renaissance novel which gets into the story of Emma Lou Morgan, a black woman recently admitted to college with deeply dark skin. The book explores how Emma perceives people of her race as well as the way they perceive her. Emma is highly educated, but is simply darker, and so she is seen as less. I could highly relate to this book, due to the way intersections of color and caste, education and upbringing, come into play when Indians interact with each other. When Emma bemoans the broken English of the black woman trying to introduce herself to her, or reflects on how she was introduced to skin lightening creams every day of her childhood, I couldn’t help feeling it mirrored in 21st century Indian society (or probably any postcolonial society, definitely still in the USA today). I have definitely thought many of the same thoughts as Emma Lou. As intra-racial observation, the book is a gem, but unfortunately, Thurman tried to develop it with a normal plot. Emma tries to date certain men, and interact with her classmates, and I just found these parts of the book so trite. I felt that Thurman was trying to make the book go somewhere for the sake of making it resemble a linear novel, but the novel would have been much more successful simply if it had remained poignant slice of life reflections on colorism.

I give it high enough consideration due to the universality and timeliness of Thurman’s observations, but as a novel, it needs considerable more structure, and thought.

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