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In Every Mirror She's Black Summary and Reviews

In Every Mirror She's Black

A Novel

by Lola Akinmade Akerstrom

In Every Mirror She's Black by Lola Akinmade Akerstrom X
In Every Mirror She's Black by Lola Akinmade Akerstrom
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  • Published Sep 2021
    416 pages
    Genre: Literary Fiction

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About this book

Book Summary

An arresting debut for anyone looking for insight into what it means to be a Black woman in the world.

Three Black women are linked in unexpected ways to the same influential white man in Stockholm as they build their new lives in the most open society run by the most private people.

Successful marketing executive Kemi Adeyemi is lured from the U.S. to Sweden by Jonny von Lundin, CEO of the nation's largest marketing firm, to help fix a PR fiasco involving a racially tone-deaf campaign. A killer at work but a failure in love, Kemi's move is a last-ditch effort to reclaim her social life.

A chance meeting with Jonny in business class en route to the U.S. propels former model-turned-flight-attendant Brittany-Rae Johnson into a life of wealth, luxury, and privilege—a life she's not sure she wants—as the object of his unhealthy obsession.

And refugee Muna Saheed, who lost her entire family, finds a job cleaning the toilets at Jonny's office as she works to establish her residency in Sweden and, more importantly, seeks connection and a place she can call home.

Told through the perspectives of each of the three women, Lolá Ákínmádé Åkerström's In Every Mirror She's Black is a fast-paced, richly nuanced yet accessible contemporary novel that touches on important social issues of racism, classism, fetishization, and tokenism, and what it means to be a Black woman navigating a white-dominated society.

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
  1. We see three very different Black women in this novel. How do you think each of their backgrounds informed the choices they made?
  2. The themes of tokenism and fetishization are prominent in this book. Discuss how they each played out with the women and what impact that had on them in the book.
  3. There are many comparisons between Swedish and American societies. What did you find different about how the two countries handled issues of racism and sexism? Was there something about the setting in Stockholm that changed your perspective about the social issues tackled in this book?
  4. Kemi seems to make a spur-of- the- moment choice to move to Sweden. Why do you think she did this? How did her sister's opinion factor into her decision?
  5. Jonny's ...

You can see the full discussion here. This discussion will contain spoilers!

Some of the recent comments posted about In Every Mirror She's Black:

Autobiographical?
Not every author started out as an author! She could have been any of those things. or something else. But being a Black woman in Sweden gives her an interesting perspective on the main characters. - linz

How do you feel about Jonny being used as a linking figure? Do his backstory and potential diagnosis make him a sympathetic character?
I think the character of Jonny was essential in this book, but that doesn't mean that he was likable. - gaylamath

How does each main character deal (or not) with loneliness?
Eventhough Muna tried to deal with her loneliness, her everchanging circumstances prevented that from happening.She saw suicide as her only relief. I didn't get the feeling that Brittany was all that lonely. At least it wasn't on ... - beckyd

Kemi seems to make a spur-of-the-moment choice to move to Sweden. Why do you think she did this? How did her sister's opinion factor into her decision?
I think she wanted to do something new and different, she was young and had no reason not to. If I had been in her position I would have wanted to do the same thing too. - gaylamath

Kemi, Brittany, and Muna only have one small interaction with all three of them on the page together. Why do you think the author chose for them not to interact more?
I think that the women had to be written separately so that it could be shown that even though they were totally different people, with totally different means in live, that racism was alive and it had to do with the race and not a person's ... - gaylamath

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"A striking debut...As entertaining as it is revealing, Åkerström's novel has readers hoping that each of these women is able to break free from toxic expectations and achieve her every dream and ambition. Along the way, Åkerström also delivers poignant commentary on Swedish culture and the price Black women pay by virtue of the color of their skin. " - Booklist

"Åkerström, who moved to Sweden in 2009, has crafted an absorbing, if unsettling, narrative that dissects the realities of what it means to be a Black woman in the world today. She writes with genuine empathy for her characters and sheds light on their struggles with the understanding that there is no single Black experience. Rather than shying away from or oversimplifying difficult and complex topics, Åkerström has effectively packaged themes of racism, immigration, fetishism and otherness into an engrossing story that will enlighten its readers, regardless of their nationality or race." - BookPage

"A novel with thematic depth and complexity sometimes undercut by flat characters." - Kirkus

"The profusion of themes and plotlines, all tenuously connected to Jonny, can feel a bit unwieldy, but Åkerström powerfully conveys all of the women's experiences with race as Muna is pushed to the limit with racist taunts from strangers and Kemi gradually comes to terms with the realities of the city's currents of racism." - Publishers Weekly

"Beautifully complex and deftly drawn…In Every Mirror She's Black is a sexy, surprising, searing debut about love, loss, desire, and the many dimensions of Black womanhood." - Deesha Philyaw, 2020 National Book Award Finalist & award-winning author of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies

"In Every Mirror She's Black is a wise and complicated exploration of the lives of three Black women in America and Sweden. Lolá Ákínmádé Åkerström offers a sharply written story with messy, deeply moving characters, raising brutal questions and steering clear of easy answers. A book that will stick with you long after you've turned the last page." - Taylor Jenkins Reid, New York Times bestselling author of Daisy Jones & The Six

With a contemporary flair, highlighting the layered subtleties of the Black woman's plight. In Every Mirror She's Black will stay with readers for a long time." - Nicole Dennis-Benn, author of bestselling novels Here Comes the Sun and Patsy

"In her debut novel, Lolá Ákínmádé Åkerström has given us a story that is at once enjoyable and disturbing as it explores the painful price millions of women around the world pay for walking around with black skin." - Imbolo Mbue, New York Times bestselling author of Behold the Dreamers

This information about In Every Mirror She's Black was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

Write your own reviewwrite your own review

RebeccaR

I Loved It From Page One !
One thing that I have really enjoyed about BookBrowse over the years has been my exposure to new authors and new books. In a brick and mortar book store (yes, I do enjoy those still, as well) I am not sure that the cover design oF IN EVERY MIRROR SHE'S BLACK would have immediately caught my eye.Fortunately, I almost always open a book and read the first page to test my interest; this debut novel is a winner from page one. No matter where a woman lives or what age she is, I think readers will relate to the career, dating, relationship issues of at least two of the characters- marketing executive Kemi (age 34) and flight attendant Brittany-Rae (age 38). The third female has had a life that fewer American women might be familiar with - being a refugee. The plot is enriched by both this third female, young Somali refugee Muna,working as a janitor in Sweden, and the fact that all three of the women are black, albeit from different countries.

These are not fairy tale lives or absurdly perfect romances or tales of young women whose parents provided them with such an auspicious start in life that there's no way they can fail. This is contemporary life where women who are dating past high school are going to run into some uncomfortable and/or insulting situations.

Tying together the lives of these three women is a fairly egotistical, unlikable guy. Good looking enough, it seems, to get away with it. Part of the fun of reading a unique book is discovering the book on your own. So no spoiler alerts, and I will stop my review here. I am telling my friends: you should read this!!

Janine S

Compelling and worthwhile read
I received an advance copy of this book in order to participate in an upcoming book discussion. I’m so very glad I did. This book offers a compelling story of three black women each seeking love, fulfillment, and meaning as they arrive to set down roots in Sweden, a predominantly white country. Kemi, a Nigerian, naturalized American, has a successful career has recently been offered a career-advancement opportunity in Sweden but in her personal life cannot find a man whom she feels is worthy of her. Brittany, an American with Jamaican heritage, is beautiful and smart, but her career choices have left her unfulfilled until she meets Jonny, heir to untold wealth in Sweden, who offers her what appears to be the relationships she’s always been looking for. Muna is a Somalian refugee, who comes to Sweden family-less, with little skills but a great desire to succeed and set down roots with a new family. Each experiences the harsh reality of racism but each defines the experience differently. Each woman has been given opportunity but responds differently. Their lives intersect at the marketing firm owned by Jonny who is a fascinating character and to whom each of the women has a unique response dramatically affecting their life choices. The author has done a wonderful job in crafting this book. Her writing is magical and deep. I simply could not put this book down. This is a worthwhile read. I highly recommend it.

LinZ

Its hard to be a Black Woman in our world
I read this book as soon as it arrived. I wanted to read this , primarily to see how Black women are treated in another country , especially one that has a reputation for being liberal and open like Sweden. Maybe this is part of what drew Kemi , a hope to advance in a world that she thought would accept her! Brittany Rae went for the money and position and poor Muna just had to escape! Each woman finds that she may not be any better off than before. Each is trapped by her expectations ( not unreasonable) of what she expected her life to be in a new country. I think the three different perspectives are valuable as they illustrate that racism is alive and well in the world. Each had a chance to have a different outcome in their lives but things pretty much ended with the similar disappointments.. I also thought that Jonny was an unusual character. He seemed right off to be a bit odd to me, but I thought of him as someone high functioning on the autism spectrum, because of personal experiences in this field. His family didn't help him grown up into a responsible adult who could take care of himself. This was an unusual story for me, but one I enjoyed for all its quickiness.

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Author Information

Lola Akinmade Akerstrom Author Biography

Nigerian-American and based in Sweden, Lola Akinmade Åkerström is an award-winning author, speaker, and photographer. Her work has appeared in National Geographic, BBC, CNN, The Guardian, Sunday Times Travel, The Telegraph, New York Times, Travel + Leisure, Slate, Travel Channel, Adventure Magazine, Lonely Planet, amongst others.

In addition to contributing to several books, she is the author of the following books: 2018 Lowell Thomas Award winner for best travel book, Due North, bestselling Lagom: Swedish Secret of Living Well, available in 18 foreign language editions, and internationally-acclaimed In Every Mirror She's Black.

She has been recognized with multiple awards for her work, including being named a 2022 Hasselblad Heroine and receiving the 2018 Travel ...

... Full Biography
Author Interview
Link to Lola Akinmade Akerstrom's Website

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