February is Black History Month and to celebrate, I have a great collection of classic African American literature coming your way every week. From the well-known to the not-so-well-known, these books have done great and uproarious things in the Black community.
They say if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. At least that was the case with Max Disher, a dapper black rouge of a med student who found his career short-changed when the Dean of his prestigious college wouldn’t graduate him because of his race. Through a confluence of events, Max becomes acquainted with one Dr. Junius Crookman, a scientist claiming to have invented a transformation process that will turn all the blacks in the world white. Max gathers up a mere $50.00 and becomes one of Dr. Crookman’s first patients. Three days later, where Max Disher once existed now was Matthew Fisher, a white man ready to take on the world.
And so begins George S. Schuyler’s satirical and hilarious novel, Black No More. A modern day Sneeches story, this staple of African American literature approaches the common thought, what would happen to the race problem in America if black people turned white? Would everybody be happy? While it’s clear that Black No More is a smart and eye-opening work of fiction, one can’t help but wonder if there’s a certain truth hiding between the lines of Schuyler’s poignant novel…particularly in his stereotypical portrayal of the leaders of both races…and the people that so blindly follow them.
Within the first day of Matthew Fisher’s transformation, he begins to realize that white people just aren’t what he thought they were when he was black. They’re far less courteous and much less interesting, he says. Things quickly begin to turn ugly for Matthew, as his old friends reject the new him and he’s accused of abandoning his people and not having any racial pride. Even when Matthew dreams up a scam to become leader of the Knights of Nordica, a white supremacist group, he is still stuck in a world of chaos and general hysteria. Things get extra interesting when Matthew’s new wife, the daughter of his right hand man in the Nordica group, gives birth to a black baby…you can imagine what happens next…
Black No More is proof that there really are no better Sneeches on the beaches, as Dr. Seuss might say. Regardless of color, we all have the same problems, the same issues and faults, and the same fears and judgements about what we know to be right and wrong.
Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.