But it is ‘Marla Okadigbo’ that has caused all the fuss for its take on the hot topic of racism in modern America.
This is the story of a literary scam that takes America by storm. White male author, Winkler Jones, pens an online review of The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood’s book about a world where women have no rights and exist only to serve men. Jones calls it ‘oppression porn for feminists’ and says it’s only a matter of time before a black American writes a novel where slavery is restored.
Jones’ crooked agent tells him to delete the review and write the slavery book himself. Jones does so, putting it out under the pen name, ‘Marla Okadigbo,’ supposedly a black American woman. The book is a hit until the author’s true identity is revealed. It then becomes a scandal, and perception of the book changes from a story of the struggle for black liberation to one of oppression by white supremacists.
Meanwhile, Jones is haunted by the spirit of the real Marla, a black slave from the early 1800s, and feuds with his girlfriend, Sonia, a white English teacher struggling to help school students in the poor neighborhood where she works.
Review by Charlie D. Hall
I have never read a story like ‘Marla Okadigbo.’ With great wit and power of expression, it captures the drama and hypocrisy of modern racial America. In the heated era of Black Lives Matter, Marla may incite a riot, but it might be a riot we need.
In Winkler Jones’ odd mix of cynicism and naivety, Smith creates a flawed anti hero we can despise and forgive in equal measure. ‘Marla Okadigbo’ is morally ambiguous, but in the age of moral certainty, that could provoke some real debate on the racial state of America today.
About the Author
Duncan Smith is no stranger to controversy. His novel 'Cultown' is the story of a bizarre cult called the Milinish, while 'The Maelstrom Ascendant' details the decadent world of showbiz and rock music. This book, 'The Tightarse Tuesday Book Club,' is a collection of ten stories - or rather, a novella (‘Marla Okadigbo’) and nine short stories.