3 out of 4 stars
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Have you ever read a book and felt like it was just what you needed? Our Two Societies proved to be that book for me. It is a non-fiction book written by Andre Davis. The book is based on the author's life experiences. The themes found in the book include racism, the black identity and the importance of education.
The book opens with a narrative of Davis' carefree days as a kid in Detroit’s Brewster Projects. After two men attempt to break into their home, seven-year-old Andre and his mother are left feeling shaken and unsafe. They soon move to one of Detroit’s best neighbourhoods. Andre makes friends with the kids in the neighbourhood. His friends are from a variety of backgrounds. This leads him to notice differences in social, racial, and financial backgrounds. He forms an opinion about what the black identity is. We see how this identity shapes and affects him as he grows. Davis then shares his experiences as a university student and as an exchange student in Japan. As he narrates these experiences, he introduces readers to two existing societies within America. One of these societies has positive values which mould its members into successful individuals.
The book's message spoke to me on a personal level. We are all stronger than racism. Unfortunately, black people are held back by their belief that they are victims. They hold this belief so strongly that they do not see the point in trying anymore. For example, why work hard at school when you will never be successful because of the colour of your skin anyway? The author challenges this notion. However, he does not refute the challenges black people face. He emphasizes the importance of building good ethics, developing positive behaviours, and obtaining marketable skills. Davis successfully gets this message across without sounding aloof or judgemental.
I was stunned by the amount of things I could identify with. Being a black university student in South Africa, I was able to draw so many parallels between my life and the author’s. This gave me an active interest in the book. As a result, my attention did not wane during some of the longer narratives. I think someone else without this vested interest might feel that these narratives drag on. Happily, the book is only 286 pages, and it is easy to read. It is divided into three parts and follows a logical sequence of events.
I noticed that most of the descriptions of the people who play a role in the book include a reference to their race. I feel this was contradictory to the book’s message that a person's values and ethics are more important than their race. To be fair though, the author usually used this reference to race to get certain points across.
Not everyone will relate to this book, but everyone can certainly learn from it. I rate it 3 out of 4 stars. Not everyone will be engrossed by it, but it is a fun, easy read with a message. I recommend it to young black people starting out in life. It made me think, and it gave me the motivation I so desperately needed.
Our Two Societies
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