I'm a big fan of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, so when I discovered Kyra Davis's Sophie Katz mystery novels, I was pretty pleased with the find. The main character, Sophie Katz, is a wise-cracking writer (a cliché, but it works out okay) who solves real-life murder mysteries, mainly because the people around her become the targets of serial killers. One thing I particularly love about this series is that it's set in San Francisco, which is a city close to where I grew up. I enjoy how Davis effortlessly works the Bay Area scenery into the background of the novel - it almost made me feel I was back home again.
Obsession, Deceit and Really Dark Chocolate is the third in the series. I might have tackled the series as a whole in this review, since I believe it's fun and worth reading, but there was a particular passage in this book that strongly resonated with me and that I would like to discuss.
First, a little background about the book: when a college mentor of Sophie's asks her for a favor, she is drawn into a series of murders that revolve around a neck-and-neck local political campaign. I don't think I'll mention more about the plot here, as there are a lot of twists and turns that are fun to read, and I don't want to include any spoilers. However, I should explain that the main character is mixed race, although her identity doesn't often factor into the books. But every once in a while, Sophie's background is mentioned, and there is one part where the author includes a message about the perception of race/difference that I agree with 100%.
Being familiar with San Francisco and the Bay Area, I want to say that not only is it a very diverse place, but it is a place which embraces diversity. Although as a mixed race person myself, I did experience some racism growing up, the events were few and far between. And when I encountered racism, I had a strong enough belief in myself as a person that I didn't let it define me.
So, having given the background of both the main character and myself, here is the quote in Davis's book that I would like to discuss. *Steps up on soapbox and clears throat.*
But as I gazed down at my light brown skin I thought about all the people I had met in my life who had never
suffered discrimination. A lot of them were under the bizarre impression that they were missing out. It was as
if they thought they'd be cooler if they had a glass ceiling hanging over their heads. Those were the people who
told minorities they barely knew that they understood their so-called struggle (336).
This paragraph really, really hits home a point with me because of what I've seen of modern events and the current obsession with victimhood.
Racism exists. Most people don't question that it exists. It was worse in the past, based on America's history of native genocide, slavery, World War II and the Japanese internment, etc. There are many, many examples in recent and distant American history about the life and death struggle to bring basic human rights to people who aren't white and male. Again, I think very few people would disagree. However, what I don't like is the recent likening of being considered a victim as something noble or worth emulating. This bothers me. Yes, there is discrimination today. Yes, people should be unafraid to talk about discrimination and their personal experiences. No one should have to hide their experiences. But proudly wearing the title of "victim?" Or putting themselves in situations where they can claim victimhood? I feel that that is carrying it too far.
Do our negative experiences shape us? I can't disagree with that. Hopefully, they shape us for the better - in learning what situations to avoid and how to value ourselves despite what others may say and do. I can't control what other people may say or do - but I can choose to be the person I am and want to be, regardless.
I don't think anyone should celebrate being a victim. Being a victim just means something horrible happened to you, and you are forever defined by that event. Being a survivor - that means you've overcome whatever horrible thing happened and remained true to yourself. That means that no matter what happened to you, you've persevered and only let it change you for the better. And I think that is worth a whole heck of a lot more, at least to me.
Although this rant has very little to do with the book itself, it's just one person's opinion. I'm sure others feel differently about it, as we are all shaped by our individual experiences in life.
*Steps down from soapbox.*
So... to get back to the writing, I'll repeat that it's a fun series of books worth reading, and that race really doesn't factor into the main character's decisions or actions. It shouldn't - it's just a part of the main character that sometimes comes up in the course of her living her life. But don't take my word for it - read the books and judge for yourself.
I read a lot - depending on my writing schedule, I can usually read about a book a day. Some of the books are fantastic and I would love to recommend to everyone - some, not so much. Either way, I thought I would share a few thoughts on what I'm reading at the moment.