THE PLOT: Raceless by Georgina Lawton is a memoir about a mixed-race child who was raised by white parents. From the moment she was born, it was clear there was something different about Georgina, yet her dark skin and curly hair were never addressed by her parents. Growing up, Georgina continually questioned why she looked different to her family, but it was blamed on a ‘throwback gene’ and a ‘foreign’ ancestor. Only in her twenties did Georgina learn the truth about her heritage and a web of family secrets starting with her mum’s affair. This book depicts how she put the pieces together, while exploring the concept of race through her own experience.
RATING: Four and a half stars. This book is compelling and intelligent. You’re pulled into Georgina’s story while contemplating what race really means. Through her life experiences and interviews with others who experienced similar upbringings (e.g. black children adopted by white families), you’re forced to wonder why and how we ascribe racial characteristics to people. This book asks the tough questions. If you grow up being told you’re white, at what stage does the world tell you you’re not (and why)? And what does this even mean – when technically you’re an equal mix of both, why are you forced to identify with the minority race? Oh God, there’s so much to unpack and I can’t do it justice. All I can tell you is to read this book.
GOOD BITS: This book deeply resonated with me. Firstly, I grew up near the author (big up Sutton). Secondly, we are similar ages (weirdly, I found out the author went to university with a close friend of mine). Thirdly, my mum is mixed-race and I am noticeably darker than my three siblings. So, when I say this book gave me the feels – oh boy, oh boy! I honestly cried at some sections because I felt seen, and that’s something I can’t describe. There’s parallels to my YA novel in-progress, which is about a Black-British teenager with an eating disorder who travels to South America while grappling with her identity. And, in some ways, I’d say if you want to understand me, or the mixed-race experience, read this book.
NOT SO GOOD BITS: I reduced my rating by half a star because not everyone will connect with this book the way I did. Also, this book has a very journalistic style and while I appreciated the author’s quotations, use of studies and interviews, I found myself drifting. When I compare it to other memoirs I’ve read, I think there could’ve been slightly more narrative to solve this problem. Not to fear, there is a clear linear arc, but sometimes the moves and back forth in time are jarring, particularly around the author’s travels abroad.
OVERALL: This book is an important contribution to conversations about anti-racism and what race really means. Georgina’s experience is not unique – as you see in the book – but it is somewhat of a vacuum for us to test our racial preconceptions. As she travels the globe and sees different reactions to her blackness (while she herself is attempting to claim it), we can better understand the nuances of racial identity. I understood this book, I felt this book, and I’d urge you to order a copy.
This book was kindly gifted to me by the publisher (Little Brown) in exchange for an honest review. It’s out on 4th February 2021 in hardback and available to pre-order online now.