In Ferguson’s debut novel based on a true story, a driven businesswoman takes extreme and innovative measures to combat prejudice and propel her career.
Though qualified and proactive as a real estate manager, Rhoda, an African-American, finds herself frequently shut out of high-level positions due to racism even in 21st-century Manhattan. In one instance, she’s hired during a phone interview only to be told once she arrives at the Upper East Side office that the broker position has been filled. Yet when she returns disguised with a blond wig and lightened skin, calling herself GeeGee, she’s hired on the spot. In a similar fashion, Rhoda ignites her struggling hair extension side-business. Following advice from a peer that she will need to have a white “face” of the company, Rhoda calls on GeeGee. Eventually, with the support of the NAACP, she testifies and wins a victory affirming that companies are forbidden to ask for race identification when hiring and they may not look outside of skill and experience to fill a position. The conceit of this novelized “true story” is intriguing, although which parts are based in fact and which in fiction is unclear. The dialogue-heavy prose doesn’t have much fluidity, often due to preceding dialogue tags in which a sentence ending with a comma introduces a paragraphlong quote. There’s a similar problem in the novel’s exposition, particularly due to the use of passive voice, which slows scenes down. Toward the end, Rhoda falls in love with a white man who initially knows her only as GeeGee. Once that episode is resolved, Ferguson describes the wedding night with the sensual expertise of a seasoned erotica pulp writer. For the preceding pages, though, another edit could help shape the spirited tale.
Has heart but lacks craft and efficiency.