Friday, September 13, 2019

Slay! Read this book.


I finished Brittney Morris's book, Slay, two or three days ago. I worried that I'd be at sea in this book because I am not a person of color - seriously, I am so very, very white that I have to be loud and silly just so I don't disappear -, a teen, or a gamer. Morris kept me afloat with her smooth narration.

So here's the story. After a few racist incidents on popular virtual reality-role play games, Kiera creates a game for people of color. The game is called "Slay" because of the double entendre of the word - to dominate, or to kill.  Players challenge each other to duels. Their moves are determined by cards dealt at the beginning of each duel and by their cleverness in playing those cards. The cards all refer to Black American icons, heroes, and culture. Auntie's Potato Salad, anyone? Success or failure in the duels raises or lowers a player's status and can earn the player "coins".

Then, someone is killed over a misuse of "coins" and status, out here in the real world. Suddenly, the game is all over the news and Kiera - who has kept her identity as the co-creator of the game a secret from everyone around her -even her boyfriend, Malcolm, - hears the game vilified all over the media.  Life gets very interesting after this.

I mentioned this book in an earlier post and I mentioned that I was not happy with Malcolm.  Malcolm and his behavior make me sad. That is all I will say about that.

The book was an eye opener because of my demographic. Although every page showed me something new about gaming or color, even about teen life, I never felt excluded by Morris's prose. There is a universality about Kiera's desire to create something that shields her people from abuse, and in her horror that this creation is misunderstood. The arguments for and against allowing people of one group or another to have their own space are everywhere. Is it better for girls if we educate them without boys in their classes? Do Italian Americans need their own social clubs? When must these clubs, schools, activities be open to everyone? Discuss among yourselves.

One of Kiera's classmates is incensed that this game is closed to anyone who is not black. This limit, regardless of its intentions, even effects (is that the right word?) the game's co-creator who describes herself as bi-racial, though everyone around her thinks she's "African".

Race is a minefield. Morris points out so many different shapes of these explosives. Then, she leads the reader through the field with barely a scratch  - or with assumptions shattered.

Kudos, Brittney Morris, and thank you.

Note: I read a paperback advanced reader's copy that I picked up at The Book & Puppet Company in Easton, PA.  This book comes out on September 24th, 2019. Order it now. Just saying.

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