2 out of 4 stars
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Racial discrimination is a crucial social matter in America started a long ago and continued to persist till nowadays as well. But thanks to heroes like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, black people have got human rights to some extent. In the fictional work of Mixed Blessings, J.M.Muse makes an earnest effort to fetch us to an America where those Black heroes never existed and so people of colour are deprived of many privileges.
The novel takes its initiative with Kimberly Solberg, a teenage girl who is born to a Mexican father and a Jewish-American mother. Since she is a mixed-race child, she is being bullied by her schoolmates and sometimes suffers mentally for being born as a biracial. Then the reader is introduced to Michael Kublai Khan, who takes the lead of the plot. He is the minister of The House of Jeremiah, which stands for the rights of black and mixed-race people. In order to put an end to the white supremacy once he creates a ten-year-long plan. Investing millions of dollars he organizes birthing camps, estimating the population of mixed-race communities become the majority by the end of the project. Pastor Tucker Dalton (the leader of the Christian Covenant Church) is the main opponent of Khan and adhering firmly to an attitude of all the non-whites should be forever crushed down, he is going to launch a brutal massacre to kill hundreds of mothers and newly born babies at Khan's birthing camps.
Meanwhile, a black teenage boy named Sidney Dennison was taken into custody for a false accusation and a night later he was found dead in the cell. Reverend Rufus Harper, a friend of Mr.Khan, organizes a protest against the police brutality on the Blacks but the authorities seem to turn a blind eye on them. So they become more organized with acquiring media coverage for the tragic incident as well and goes on struggling to seek justice for Sidney's suspicious death. Simultaneously, Star Mathews-a half black and half Japanese lady participates in a pageant- The Gardena Cherry Blossom Festival. Even though she gets the highest score, the judges decide to nominate another contestant for the first place just because of the fact that Star is not a pure Japanese but a mixed-race woman.
Will Star be able to overcome the injustice of racist judges in the finals? In Sidney's case, will the authorities look into this particular tragic incident and take necessary actions to ensure the right for Blacks to live freely in society? In the event of Dalton's savage attack, will Khan be able to save the innocent lives of newly born babies and mothers at birthing camps?
Thus, in his imaginary work, J.M.Muse points out several occasions in which the non-whites are confronted with injustice. In a time period when racism has become a rare topic for literary creations, the author's courage to bring such a thorny and integral topic into the notion is definitely needed to be praised. There is an occasion in which Mr.Khan extends kindness and empathy towards an enemy soldier who comes to kill him and that incident really touched my heart. But It is quite regrettable to see how Dalton uses his church to spread hatred over the non-whites. He misuses Biblical allusions to prove that the drastic annihilation he is about to launch is a hundred percent correct. On the other hand, it evokes much sarcasm when Dalton seeks God’s blessing for killing innocent people as if he expects God’s blessing to be less in line with skin colour. When analysing this particular viewpoint of Dalton's, what I feel is that the book has got the most applicable title since the term 'Mixed Blessings' seems to have a deeper conception beyond its surface meaning.
Likewise, there are several elements in the book which I truly appreciate. Nevertheless, it is needed to be further discussed to what extent the author has been succeeded in delivering what he has promised.
Firstly, the connection between each storyline seems poor to me. At the beginning, I expected each major character would join together in the latter part of the plot, but at the end, I was disappointed to see that I have read merely some separate narratives. Specially, Star Mathew's story stands more likely as a single storyline. Although it shows another situation in which a biracial confronts with injustice, it is not understandable how she intertwines with the flow of the plot. Further, the development of the character of Kimberly is not strong enough to address the theme. Even though the readers are left to consider Kimberly as one of the main characters neither the hardships she has to face for being a biracial nor her contribution towards the grand scheme of the plot is properly described.
Secondly, the author has employed a number of characters and it is more than seventy. Yet only a few contribute to the story by playing major roles and a considerable number of other minor characters are suddenly introduced at different points in the book but do not have any later appearances. Sometimes several characters are introduced in a way that would confuse the readers. For instance, the character of Hermando is initially met in the first chapter and it is in the thirty-ninth chapter that he appears for the second and last time. So the reader may be needed to go through several chapters back in order to recall the relation of that particular character to the story.
Thirdly, I expected to read about alternative history, since the author has promised to write on an era when Martin Luther King and Malcolm X never existed. But the book has got only the current picture of America regarding racism. This criticism could have been outweighed to some extent if at least the author has covered the topics such as police brutality, identity crisis, white domination etc in more depth, but even the given details on those subjects have not reached to a satisfactory level, either.
Finally, I personally do not agree with Khan's plan because it seems the non-white women have been deprived of their human rights since they are considered just as baby-making machines and have become pawns in the endless struggle of gaining power. So what l believe is that it would be much worthy if the author has used this fiction as an effective way to convey any other timely and reasonable solution for this sensitive matter of racism because what he has already introduced is again discrimination of another race.
As a whole, I can not admit that I enjoyed this book much because of the criticisms I have listed above. Therefore my rating for this is 2 out of 4 stars. It includes descriptions of sexual encounters as well and sometimes they reach to the explicit level. Otherwise, I would have offered it 3 stars. There were a few errors but they were not that much noticeable. So it won't be harmful if I say that the book is well written and professionally edited.
When recommending this book to the readers, I do not think that it is suitable for children and teenagers since the consistency of some profanity and violence. But I recommend this book to any mature adult who is interested in reading about racism in the United States.
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