You know the #1 thing I learnt from this book, something which has confused me greatly for very long? “Heaux” is a fancy(?) way of saying hoe/ho! I always read it and thought “beaux” which, as you can imagine, gives a whole different meaning to many situations. Thanks, Amber!
JK that’s not what this book is about at all. This book is about Racism, with a capital R, but through the medium of comedy, specifically the comedy of Amber Ruffin, human delight we do not deserve. I highly suggest you watch many clips of hers–both in general and before you read this book. And then watch the clips of her with her older sister, because the tone with which these two women speak to and with one another helps bring the the book to life, if you are reading it (as opposed to listening to it).
But that’s not to say this is a funny book per se. It’s a never ending compendium of racist incidents, mostly those faced by Lacey (Amber’s sister) with a few interjections from Amber (re: stories. Most of this book reads like Lacey lovingly trying to get a word in edgewise while her younger sister sparkles in the spotlight). You know that interview question framework, Situation – Complication – Resolution? As the name suggests, it helps you frame your answers to things like “how did you deal with a deadline you couldn’t meet?” Both sisters use it here to great effect, with the important caveat that there is no resolution. And, just to be clear, not in that “ugh Uncle Rahul is telling another long winded story with no point” sort of way, in the
You’ll find that a lot of these stories don’t have a natural conclusion or a “what I learned” at the end of them. That is because this is real life and it does not stop. These stories only reaffirm where we are. They don’t shine a light on anything new.
sort of way.
Look, this is a ~90 minute book that picks highlights from mumblemumble years of racism that two women have faced (no, seriously, how old are these two? Lacey has had…many jobs, but she’s only four years older than Amber?). It’s funny, but it is also profoundly uncomfortable to read. You are tense throughout, because you are consistently denied the release of a satisfying conclusion. If I had a dollar every time that story ended with, “and then, they were fired. Just kidding! Lacey quit,” I’d be a millionaire.
A section towards the end, where Amber alone recounts a few encounters she’s had with the police, are taken almost verbatim from a series she did during the summer of 2020, when Seth Meyers had her on every day on his show to talk about a single horrifying encounter with the police she’d had. And look, Ruffin is being paid for this work, and I assume she’s a valued member of the writing staff who would not be doing such segments if she did not want to. I’m glad I can profit from her paid labor and continue to internalize in somes small way the stresses of being Black in America. I’m glad that when I read those stories, I remembered them, because if I’m going to consume all sorts of media I want her stories to occupy some memory space.