I received a review copy of White Nights, Black Paradise as part of the Rich In Variety blog tour, in exchange for an honest review and movie cast post!
In 1978, Peoples Temple, a Black multiracial church once at the forefront of progressive San Francisco politics, self-destructed in a Guyana jungle settlement named after its leader, the Reverend Jim Jones. Fatally bonded by fear of racist annihilation, the community’s greatest symbol of crisis was the White Night; a rehearsal of revolutionary mass suicide that eventually led to the deaths of over 900 church members of all ages, genders and sexual orientations. White Nights, Black Paradise focuses on three fictional black women characters who were part of the Peoples Temple movement but took radically different paths to Jonestown: Hy, a drifter and a spiritual seeker, her sister Taryn, an atheist with an inside line on the church’s money trail and Ida Lassiter, an activist whose watchdog journalism exposes the rot of corruption, sexual abuse, racism and violence in the church, fueling its exodus to Guyana. White Nights, Black Paradise is a riveting story of complicity and resistance; loyalty and betrayal; black struggle and black sacrifice. It locates Peoples Temple and Jonestown in the shadow of the civil rights movement, Black Power, Second Wave feminism and the Great Migration. Recapturing black women’s voices, White Nights, Black Paradise explores their elusive quest for social justice, home and utopia. In so doing, the novel provides a complex window onto the epic flameout of a movement that was not only an indictment of religious faith but of American democracy. (via Goodreads)
This book surprised me with how much I enjoyed it, given the craziness that you read from the characters’ perspectives. White Nights, Black Paradise is a historical fictionization of the Jim Jones cult, based on interviews with people who were survivors or knew people in the cult. You can read more about this cult through the wikipedia because it’s really interesting, but I think it would have helped to have a little bit of prior knowledge. I had no idea that the People’s Temple was so racialized
There isn’t a lot about the plot of this book that I can tell you without messing with things, but it follows several amazing black women through an incredibly intense time period that still boggles my mind. The characters are all really interesting, and while things were really confusing to read about, it was also thrilling to read.
I think this would be an interesting read for people who like more recent historical fiction, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, or cults in general. I rated White Nights, Black Paradise four stars.
About the Author:
Sikivu Hutchinson is the author of Imagining Transit: Race, Gender, and Transportation Politics in Los Angeles, Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars, Godless Americana: Race and Religious Rebels and the novel White Nights, Black Paradise. She is a contributing editor for The Feminist Wire and founder of the Women’s Leadership Project, a feminist humanist high school mentoring program based in South L.A. She has also written and directed a short film based on White Nights, Black Paradise, which is due in Fall 2016.
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