Thrillers aren’t usually my genre. Is that why When No One Is Watching is good but not great for me? Possibly. But we read out of our comfort zones on purpose so that maybe the next one is better, or that we’re more ready for it. This is another book that hopped to the front of the to read line based on this year’s Read Harder Challenge which has a task specifically for reading a political thriller by a marginalized author and this fits the bill (gentrification is a political issue, full stop).
Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Redevelopment is around every corner, real estate agents are stalking the neighborhood, and the neighbors she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour. Sydney, along with her neighbor Theo, deep dive into local history which quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbors may not have moved to the suburbs after all, and the push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised.
Thematically Cole is hitting all the heavy notes: she tackles gentrification and black erasure from American history, as well as white supremacy, classism, and white female fragility in order to show the very real ways these structures rip apart Black communities and ruin people’s lives. I thought the narrative did a good enough job incorporating historical information into the narrative although there were parts that did feel like they could have used another pass to make them sink in more naturally. I’ve seen the tone of the book and its insidious racism and repeated gaslighting compared to Jordan Peele’s Get Out, which I can’t speak to since I don’t watch horror movies, but if you do this book will probably work great for you, and I hope it does.
Bingo Square: Shadow (We’ve got mysteries and things that go bump in the night, things that can be allowed to lurk in the shadows if we don’t turn on the light.)