Thursday, January 07, 2016

Alaya Dawn Johnson's LOVE IS THE DRUG

I read Alaya Dawn Johnson's Love is the Drug in 2014 when it came out. I think Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, or maybe Edith Campbell, told me about it. Elsewhere, I've written about books with a problematic line about Native people or culture, or, what we could call a microaggression.

Johnson's book is not about Native people or culture, but she does have a few lines in it that I want to call attention to--because they are the opposite of a microaggression. Indeed, I find them affirming.

They're about the Washington DC professional football team. You know the one I mean: the Redskins. On page 44, Emily and her dad are talking about the team's losing streak. He tells her it is because of their name, that it gives them bad luck. She's a bit skeptical. She thinks it is more about the players and their abilities. I enjoy their banter. He also makes the point that the team name is offensive, when he asks her if the team could get away with calling themselves the Washington Niggers. Pretty bold, but also quite effective.

Later, there's a part where one of the bad-guy-characters is talking about Thanksgiving--and the football game scheduled for that day. He says (p. 215):
"I hear the Redskins are going to play Dallas in a demonstration game. The good American spirit, cowboys versus Indians. The Indians will lose, of course. Everything is going back to normal." 
I won't spoil the book for you by elaborating on what "normal" is... Here's the synopsis:
From the author of THE SUMMER PRINCE, a novel that's John Grisham's THE PELICAN BRIEF meets Michael Crichton's THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN set at an elite Washington D.C. prep school. Emily Bird was raised not to ask questions. She has perfect hair, the perfect boyfriend, and a perfect Ivy-League future. But a chance meeting with Roosevelt David, a homeland security agent, at a party for Washington DC's elite leads to Bird waking up in a hospital, days later, with no memory of the end of the night. Meanwhile, the world has fallen apart: A deadly flu virus is sweeping the nation, forcing quarantines, curfews, even martial law. And Roosevelt is certain that Bird knows something. Something about the virus--something about her parents' top secret scientific work--something she shouldn't know. The only one Bird can trust is Coffee, a quiet, outsider genius who deals drugs to their classmates and is a firm believer in conspiracy theories. And he believes in Bird. But as Bird and Coffee dig deeper into what really happened that night, Bird finds that she might know more than she remembers. And what she knows could unleash the biggest government scandal in US history.

I enjoyed the story. Published by Scholastic.

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