Thursday, September 29, 2016


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Loving Day, Mat Johnson, Spiegel & Grau, 2015, 287 pp

Summary from Goodreads: "In the ghetto there is a mansion, and it is my father's house."

Warren Duffy has returned to America for all the worst reasons: His marriage to a beautiful Welsh woman has come apart; his comics shop in Cardiff has failed; and his Irish American father has died, bequeathing to Warren his last possession, a roofless, half-renovated mansion in the heart of black Philadelphia. On his first night in his new home, Warren spies two figures outside in the grass. When he screws up the nerve to confront them, they disappear. The next day he encounters ghosts of a different kind: In the face of a teenage girl he meets at a comics convention he sees the mingled features of his white father and his black mother, both now dead. The girl, Tal, is his daughter, and she’s been raised to think she’s white.

Spinning from these revelations, Warren sets off to remake his life with a reluctant daughter he’s never known, in a haunted house with a history he knows too well. In their search for a new life, he and Tal struggle with ghosts, fall in with a utopian mixed-race cult, and ignite a riot on Loving Day, the unsung holiday for interracial lovers.

My Review:
If ever there was a year to read novels about racial issues in America, this would be it. So I am. I read The Sellout in March; Homegoing in July, and now Loving Day.

Set in Philadelphia and in some ways similar to The Sellout, this one is more focused on the mixed race experience. Of course, if we didn't suffer so severely from racism in this country, being racially mixed would not be a problem.

Mat Johnson is a versatile writer who can move effortlessly between humor and serious heartfelt stuff. Loving Day mostly pokes fun at the issues it raises but this author is not as relentless in his satire as was Paul Beatty in The Sellout.

Warren Duffy is an Irish/African American mix who does not look black. He is also a less than successful comic/graphic novel artist and recently divorced from his Welsh wife. His Irish father has died and left him a rundown mansion, once a historic landmark, that now lies in the heart of Philadelphia's ghetto.

He returns to the City of Brotherly Love with plans to complete the renovation his father started and sell the house, because naturally he is nearly broke. One thing you learn pretty early on is that planning is not Warren's strong suit. Soon enough he learns he has a half-Jewish teenage daughter he never knew he had. The disappointing wreckage of his life so far begins trending toward disaster.

As this confused guy decides he should be a responsible father to Tal, ensuring she learns about her black heritage and gets an education, he changes the plan to burning down the house and collecting the insurance. If you read the book, you will find out how that works out for him.

The plot takes off on the first page and never sags. However it is the nuanced particulars of his mixed race characters (the Sunflowers, the One-droppers, the Oreos, the multiracial humanists, and the militants) that give this novel depth as well as intelligence.

It also has ghosts! 

(Loving Day has just come out in paperback and is available by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)


  1. You're right. This does seem like a very appropriate read for this crazy year.

    1. It is. In our reading group, comprised of white liberals, we all felt we learned much we hadn't known before.

  2. Wow, I love the sound of this one! I'm adding it to my wishlist. :-)

    1. Yay! It is a fun and informative read.

  3. Hmm. I have not heard of this one. Sounds like the guy is on the brink, but then gets some kind of resolution. I like those kind. Thx for the review

  4. Excellent always ; )