I sat with The Duke Who Didn’t for almost two weeks after reading it because I had so many thoughts and feelings about it. What I’m left with is joy. This book is about joy and belonging and community, but mostly sheer joy. Before most people knew anything about this book, Courtney Milan tweeted that she was wanted to find the joy in writing again, so she kept this book a secret. I am all in favor of whatever she needs to do to keep the joy in her writing. If she wants to go the Beyoncé method and drop a book at midnight when she’s ready I will be there. The reward for the reader is great.
Chloe Fong has a list and Jeremy Yu isn’t on it. She is getting ready to launch a sauce empire with her father, just as soon as she come up with the perfect name for the sauce, and she has too much to do getting ready for Wedgeford’s weekend festival. Jeremy went away when his romance with Chloe was about to blossom because she asked him to be serious. He has been trying to figure out how to be serious for Chloe for three years. At last he has given up, come back, and wants Chloe to love him as he is – seriously not serious. (He is actually very serious, thoughtful and intentional, but with jokes.)
Chloe is certain he is going to leave again, but while he’s here and making a nuisance of himself, he might as well be useful.
“He was such a jackass. How had she forgotten this about him? She was going to get her first kiss from an absolute jackass, and she didn’t even regret it.”
One of the constant joys of Courtney Milan is her delight in difficult women. Chloe has her lists, her plans, her burning desire for revenge, and the sheer force of her will. She is demanding of herself and others, and an anxious perfectionist frozen by uncertainty. She can also pivot on a dime to shape events to fit her needs and desires. Jeremy loves her exactly as she is, even though she is certain she in not what he needs.
“Chloe, my dear, I am half-Chinese. Being wealthy does not stop me from being half-Chinese. My wealthy neighbors will always know that I am half-Chinese. A wife who took their side over mine would be intolerable. I could not live with such a person. A wife who is committed to mild revenge on my behalf, however, who makes the neighbors feel that they have no choice but to treat me with respect? That’s who I want.”
There is no big third act drama. Instead, Jeremy chooses joy over conformity and Chloe chooses Jeremy over perfection. There is a subversive power in choosing joy. A lot of what I have to say about the way Jeremy and Chloe choose joy gets spoilery, so if anyone wants to have a conversation after you’ve read the book, I am ready. I saw Nichole Perkins’ tweet right before I started reading The Duke Who Didn’t and it felt very appropriate for the book.
Your anti-racism work should be more than learning about oppression and discrimination. You also need to read & listen to our joy and pleasure.
— Nichole 🍞🍯 (@tnwhiskeywoman) September 2, 2020
If you are reading heavy and serious anti-racism works, that’s great. But don’t forget to read the love stories, comedies and stories with happy endings too. That’s what we want to imagine for the future – all kinds of people succeeding, growing, finding love, building communities, and dancing with joy under a big starry sky.