Snapped by Alexa Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
There are several different things going on here and some definitely work better than others. First and foremost, Snapped is an unusually candid portrait of a biracial woman coming to terms with the internalized anti-black attitudes she swallowed while growing up in a white family and predominantly white community. And the toxic folly of the color blind philosophy she was steeped in for so long. Author Alexa Martin knows this territory from the inside out— this aspect of the story is very personal for her— and she writes Elliot incredibly specifically and well.
As a result of Martin’s insight, Elle is infuriating at times but she’s also very real. Some Black people raised the way she was go out of their way to deny racism as a form of self protection and protection for the families that raised them. That’s a serious phenomenon and I haven’t seen that laid out so clearly in romance before in a story that acknowledges how messed up that is. It’s humane but honest.
That said, there were some things I didn’t get about Elliot—parts of the portrayal that undermined the strengths Elliot was supposed to have. She’s supposed to be good with people but doesn’t think that Quinton might have a really good reason for keeping his father out of his movement and his foundation? People have complicated relationships with their family for many very good reasons and yet she assumes he’s just ungrateful or petulant. That’s a silly way to generate more conflict. Even worse, Elliot has watched and studied football all her life and prides herself in being at least sensible to really blatant racism even if she doesn’t see racism as ubiquitous, but doesn’t understand that the league has discriminated against black quarterbacks, and isn't familiar with the racist stereotypes about Black athletes and how they influence who gets to play what position in the league. This might just be an awkward and unintended consequence of using Elliot as a proxy when the author wants to educate readers about a point, but it's a pretty big part of NFL history. Elliott's ignorance strains both credulity and threatens her credibility, tipping her turning a blind eye to race to the absurd.
Apart from these points, the other ways that Elliot has swallowed micro and macro racial aggression in order to get along generally tracked. Snapped is also a romance and that works too even if the burn is very slow. Elliot’s love interest Quinton is a fictionalized Colin Kaepernick type character with a secret, very personal motivation for his activism. He’s fighting for better and more equitable treatment of Black athletes and veteran, retired football players struggling with the devastating health effects of the brutal sport they play. Elliot and Quinton are thrown together when Elliot is tasked by the team owner with channeling his protest into more socially acceptable forms that reflect well on the team. I liked Quinton as a romantic hero, but the portrayal of the movement politics he’s engaged in is by far the weakest link, especially at the climax which goes off the rails and is far too simplistic and ahistorical about how change is made. Overall Snapped tells a difficult and meaningful story about a woman coming to terms with her family and identity imperfectly but well. For me it was well worth the time and consideration.
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