cover image Black American Refugee: Escaping the Narcissism of the American Dream

Black American Refugee: Escaping the Narcissism of the American Dream

Tiffanie Drayton. Viking, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-0-593-29854-1

Journalist Drayton (Coping with Gun Violence) mixes memoir with contemporary psychology to explore in this blistering if uneven work the “idyllic illusion” of the American dream. Raised by an immigrant mother who “exhaust[ed] her body and her dignity fulfilling the whims of white families,” Drayton charts how she grew conscious early on of the depths of American racism—from receiving hateful AIM messages as a girl in the early 2000s to absorbing lessons about meritocracy in an attempt to escape “the conditions of Blackness” in her early adulthood. From here, she draws striking comparisons between the experiences of Black Americans and the abusive relationship she survived with the father of her children, with each chapter addressing a different tactic used by narcissistic partners. Drayton eventually left her partner and her country for refuge in her homeland of Trinidad, where, with her children, she hoped to “move on from the hurt and pain of the past and work toward a brighter future.” While the combination of vignette and pop psychology can feel unbalanced, Drayton’s rich storytelling reveals the complex roles “victims” and “abusers” play in “American racial stratification” and offers a path toward healing for both. Those seeking to better understand the long-term effects of racism should pick this up. (Feb.)