Homebodies by Tembe Denton-Hurst, narrated by Marcella Cox

On a backdrop of book pages, an iPhone with the cover of Homebodies by Tembe Denton-Hurst, narrated by Marcella Cox. At the bottom of the image, a strip of torn paper with a quote: "Homebodies is a very powerful debut." and a URL: judeinthestars.com.

As is too often the case (why?), the synopsis gives too much away, so do yourself a favour and don’t read it. Or forget it. Because if you expect it to be only the start of the story, you’ll be disappointed, the main events are all there.

On the surface, Mickey has everything: a job she loves and a doting girlfriend. The job isn’t as awesome as it seems, her new (white) editor is not impressed with the articles she pitches. And Lex may be devoted but she won’t stand up to her mom when she blames Mickey for her daughter’s queerness. When Mickey is fired, her life is turned upside down and she won’t let it happen without a fight. But the letter she posts about racism in the media industry doesn’t have the effect she hoped for, Lex isn’t as supportive as she could be, and Mickey goes back to her hometown to try and figure out what she wants to do next.

Mickey is angry at the universe and she has every reason to be, but she’s neither as powerless as she thinks she is nor is she entitled to everything she thought should be hers (especially in her relationships with her loved ones), as she comes to realize towards the end. The author highlights everyday racism in the workplace (and out of it), incidents so subtle they’re hard to prove and explain to those who aren’t subjected to them but easily recognized by those who are. As a white person, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of these I’ve unwittingly been responsible for, and while I’m under no illusion that I can be perfect, I do hope I’ve learned from this book.

I usually need to like a character to care about what happens to them. I can’t say I really liked Mickey, I found her often unfair to Lex, full of herself yet indecisive and whiny. In one word: human. Because we meet her at what is probably one of the worst times of her life and she’s lost. Everything she thought was solid proves not to be, starting with herself. I don’t know many people who are able to make the best decisions when they have no idea what is happening. When life sucks, you’re allowed to be content with not drowning. And the smartest people (I trust Mickey’s friends on this, because that’s not really what she shows in this part of her life) can fuck up and make the stupidest decisions. I’m not talking work-wise, I mean relationship-wise. On the work front, I applaud the bravery and wish the world the author describes didn’t feel so real.

My feelings about the narration are split. It shines in dialogues. The pace of the narrative parts, however, is uneven, with random emphasis and pauses.

Homebodies is a very powerful debut, a slice of Mickey’s life that shows her grow from angry but compliant to drowning and lost to empowered and taking control back. The manifesto it’s supposed to be about only plays a small part in the book, in terms of how many chapters are really devoted to it, but Mickey’s journey is about more than that. The strength of this book is in the details, in how Denton-Hurst paints the characters and their interactions, in the grandmother’s voice, in the best friends’ unwavering support and ass-kicking, in the flaws and the growing pains.


Listen to Homebodies:


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