Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Author: Tiffany D. Jackson
Summary: Mary B. Addison killed a baby.
Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.
Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.
There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?
This was a strangely hard book to rate. Part of me understands exactly how impactful this book is. ALLEGEDLY covers a hard but true topic of how PoC, specifically Black people, are treated by the police and justice systems. Tiffany Jackson is also a masterful story teller. There's also a narrative on child abuse, survival sex, and the broken system that handles children who have been taken by the state and given to folks who use them as a business instead of treating them like children.
However, I cannot give this book a high rating due to the fatphobia and queerphobia represented in this book.
Ms. Stein limps into the kitchen, her bowlegs fat and swollen. You’d think someone would change their diet after they reach over two hundred pounds. But not Ms. Stien. She still eats an entire box of Entenmann’s crumb topped donuts a day.
"She wears black wrist guards and one of those weight belts that sits right below her bulging gut, yet I've never seen her work out or lift anything but food to her mouth."
I've seen several people comment that the fatphobia was to show how the system and Mary's mother had made her intolerant but I don't buy that. This is not a character flaw. This is an author who chose to make two of the most arguable heinous characters in her book fat, slovenly, mean, and lazy. She could have made Ms. Stein evil without ever mentioning her size but she goes into great detail several times to push home the fact that not only is this woman abusive and terrible, she's also fat. Which, in text, seems to be her greatest crime of all- existing while being fat.
My mom… she kicked me out when she caught me with my first girlfriend. Pretty little light skin thing with curly hair…”
She glances at me and I stare at the floor. Kelly rolls her eyes and mouths. “Ew.”
China is the manliest person in the house. She wears nothing but boy clothes, even boxers which seems like overkill. Momma would be disgusted at the “nasty lesbian” I’m living with. she hates anything that is not in the Bible, which seems like everything.
“How long you been a rug muncher for?”
At no point in the book is this homophobia every questioned. In fact, China seems to only exist to be made fun of or to have sex with another female character. It was highly uncomfortable to see the only queer character being used in this way.
The last thing I want to talk about in my review is something that was hard for me to stomach and almost made me DNF the book. Mary is pregnant. She is 15 and the father of her baby is an adult. While I understand that this is real life for many people, it was also hard for me to read this book and never once see Mary understand that she was taken advantage of. I've seen a lot of arguments about this but Mary is fifteen. She is a child. She is a child who grew up in prison and has not had adequate emotional development being taken advantage by an adult. The whole book is Mary trying to protect this adult because she knows he will go to jail because what he did to her is illegal. Let me reiterate this: children cannot consent to sex with an adult. They cannot consent because they are children.
Honestly, the only thing that kept me from DNFing this book was I wanted to find out what really happened to Alyssa although half way through I pretty much figured out what the plot twist was going to be as it is heavily foreshadowed throughout the book.
Again, I do understand the importance of this book due to the topic at hand but I can't say that I would ever recommend this book to anyone due to the fatphobia and queerphobia.