“Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of radio, believed that sound waves never completely die away, that they persist, fainter and fainter, masked by the day-to-day noise of the world. Marconi thought that if he could only invent a microphone powerful enough, he would be able to listen to ancient times.”
White Tears is a magical realism ghost story, which blends the past and the present to explore racism and power dynamics in the US. The writing is beautiful, but it was a slow build at first so it took a while to warm to this novel. Then the plot completely took over, propelling the conflict and racism discourse onwards.
When I started reading White Tears, I wondered how it would create a discourse on race, when its main characters are white. The topic of cultural appropriation is brought up quickly – the characters have a deep love of black music, and even wear dreads, although they quickly learn to hide this when they move to New York City.
They’re obsessed with Blues music, and are constantly searching for authenticity – the original, the best, the timeless and classic Blues music. A dichotomy of power is represented initially between the two white characters – one is rich, one is poor. This paves the way for the structures of racial power and suppression to be explored in depth.
White Tears is haunting. It’s a devastating look at the effects of racism, both past and present. Despite its slow start, it captured me until the end. I rated it 5 stars.