White Tears (2017) by Hari Kunzru – Book Review

I’m a reader who wants to become a writer. To that end, I read across the board. Anything and everything I can get my hands on. I’m not picky about genres – even though I prefer fantasy and try to stay away from romance. But any book that looks interesting enough, or has an intriguing title, or cover art that makes me stop and stare, or a blurb that makes me want to dive right in – it finds itself on my TBR pile.

Recently, however, I acquired a book stash from a friend culling their shelves for a move. Some of those titles had been on my Want to Read list. Some I might never have picked up had I seen them on a bookstore shelf. White Tears falls in the latter category, and after reading it I guess that wouldn’t have been a bad thing.

Basically, this book wasn’t for me.

New Yorkers Carter and Seth chop up old music to make it new again, ripping off black culture to line white pockets. They are young, hungry and talented. But one day they stumble on an old blues song – an undiscovered gem just waiting to be found – and land themselves in a heap of trouble.

Seeking answers, Seth travels deep into the heart of the old South, accompanied by Carter’s bewitching sister Leonie. But this is America, where ghosts lie uneasy in shallow graves and tugging one loose thread can unravel a bloody history of injustice. And the closer Seth gets to the haunting truth, the more he feels pursued . . .

White Tears is a nail-biting ride through the terrifying spectre of America’s past. It’s about black lives and white privilege and the music that runs through the country’s veins like blood.

Out of the aforementioned book stash, I picked this one simply because of the smaller page count. It started off good enough. A loner befriends a popular rich kid on the basis of their shared interest in music and sound. They mash together sounds they’ve heard and accidentally put together a song that should not exist. Everything goes downhill from there.

I was really enjoying myself with the story. I wanted to see where it ended up. But halfway through the book, the perspective starts shifting. It seems random until you get a handle on it – which took me a while. That started to bum me out. I don’t like not being able to make sense of a story and that’s exactly what kept happening.

The story is supposed to be a critique of racism. In the wake of the current global scenario and the Black Lives Matter movement, it seems like an apt choice of subject matter. But with the perspective jumping around all over the place, it made me want to hurl the book across the room.

This book definitely was not for me.

Saba T. Siddiqui

A nerd who loves reading, writing, and disagreeing with people simply because I can.