A satire of race relations in America today, this novel examines what happens when a black man accepts the hatred society has normalized. An unnamed narrator living in a United States slightly off from ours strives to get ahead in his law firm so he can afford a medical procedure to remove the birthmarks from his biracial son. He is convinced this the only way to ensure a happy life for his boy, despite the resistance of his wife, son, and mother.
Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s novel asks its reader to consider whether the dystopia he describes is our reality now. Although set in an alternate America where people of color get surgery and “demelanization” in order to look more white so that they can be more successful, the situations that the narrator navigates are either not far off from what could happen or slight retellings of the horrors, systemic misfortunes, and microaggressions that do occur today to African-Americans. Ruffin shows himself to be a master of unreliable narration, as his protagonist is aware of some of his self-deception, but not so aware of how self-hatred motivates and blinds him, creating a tragedy from which it is hard to look away.