I was lucky to get an advanced copy of this book from Kensington Books for my honest review. It releases October 27, 2020. Sharina Harris is a talented writer and one whose personal story I can relate to as a fellow writer and mom and woman pursuing the writer dream.
JUDGE’S GIRLS opens with the death of Joe Donaldson, a loved and admired Georgia Judge. His daughter, Maya, also an attorney, is processing her own grief and return to everyday-life when she is confronted with the contents of her father’s will. His last wishes include allowing Jeanie, Joe’s wife, and Ryder, Jeanie’s daughter from a previous relationship, to live in the Donaldson home, which now belongs to Maya, until Jeanie desires to leave. This causes multiple problems stemming from the fact that Maya and Jeanie’s relationship is about as warm as a meat locker. You can expect some hard-truths, laughs, and maybe learn something along the way.
Raise your hand if you get along with everyone in your family…no?…no one raising a hand? Right. We all have that second-cousin-once-removed or great aunt or younger sibling that you wish would just be banned from speaking at the family reunion Sunday brunch. Families are made up of humans with different ideas, opinions, wants, needs, addictions, mental illnesses, stressors, histories, etc. And while we’d like to think that love can override all other things, it isn’t always that easy. This story is a good example of how people can ultimately want the same things, but because of perspective and grudges as steadfast as concrete, they can’t understand and respect each other.
If there ever were a time for white people to read a Black story, it’s now. The Kendis, the Baldwins, the Oluos, etc., are important BLM authors and I implore you to add them to your reading list. Harris can be on your racial re-education list, too, in the same way that Black poets, fiction writers, playwrights, sci-fi and fantasy authors can be. Harris is an African American woman writer and should be celebrated as one. The conceptualized Black Woman, a strong-take-no-prisoners, unable to show weakness female is a trope that we don’t have to give into. Maya is complex, but not because she’s Black. She’s complex because she’s a person. Does being Black add to her story? Absolutely. Has it shaped her emotions and character? Yes. Without a doubt. She is also more than that. She’s a woman that is afraid to love, to be vulnerable. She’s loyal and smart and still has a lot to learn. In Maya’s relationship with Jeanie and Ryder, we are forced to recognize the difference between how Black and white women are treated and while it isn’t the center of the story, it plays a big role.
This is not a story of a Black woman being rescued by white people. This is not a white-washed Black story. These are not rich Black people pretending to be white or pretending that racism doesn’t exist. There are elements of Black culture weaved through the storytelling like Maya’s aunts and their cooking, or the whisper of the supernatural that appears in a lot of African American folklore. It’s a story of Black and white people with their own personal life-hurdles and insecurities and accomplishments and romance. Did I forget the ROMANCE?!
I know some readers will see the cover or look at Harris’ picture and not pick up her book because let’s be honest–people find all kinds of ways to show their racism. In spite of that and because Harris’ writing is worth it, I hope this book will become a bestseller, a book on all the lists, a beloved story for all people because JUDGE’S GIRLS is about more than a patched together family suffering from the loss of the person who kept these women civil. It’s about how we define “family” and find love where we thought it could never be.