If you want a realistic account of the fears that people of colour face in their everyday lives, whether you’re a black mom cautioning your child against certain behaviour or a young biracial adult facing the prejudices blocking your path, A Good Neighbourhood is a chilling story that comes eerily close to highlighting some of the points in the Black Lives Matter movement that is currently in focus across the globe.
Valerie is a single black mom to Xavier, and she’s passionate about the environment and ecology. So when her new neighbours tear down much of their garden to install a smart house there’s already a bone of contention there. But determined to be a good neighbour Valerie reaches out to the Whitman family (who just happens to be white), not knowing that their move into the tight-knit community will set into motion a change of events that will change her life forever.
The adults become embroiled in a dispute about an Oak tree in Valerie’s yard, and become so preoccupied with winning that battle that they don’t see what’s happening between the two children who are new neighbours. They definitely don’t realise that there is a romance blooming between Xavier and the Whitman’s teenager daughter Juniper, and it doesn’t take much for things to spiral out of control in a shocking way that is just so sad and terrifyingly real.
A Good Neighbourhood often gave me chills, offering an insight into the perceptions, expectations and pre-judgment offered by both sides of the colour line. There are also discussions of race, ethnicity, education level and class, and an acknowledgement that these differences make differences. Given the events unfolding in today’s world I believe you should read this book by Therese Anne Fowler, who in the book correctly notes that “without a call to action, change rarely occurs.”
Ultimately “it’s in the telling of a tragedy that we sow the seeds – we hope – of prevention of future sorrows.” Read that last sentence again. And then read this book.
A Good Neighbourhood by Therese Anne Fowler is available from bookstores and online retailers for a recommended retail price of R340.
Thanks to Jonathan Ball Publishers for sharing this book with me.