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We Are Not Like Them


We Are Not Like Them

Written by two acclaimed authors, Christine Pride and Jo Piazza, and told from the alternating perspectives of two women, one Black and one white, WE ARE NOT LIKE THEM is a powerful and timely exploration of race relations in America.

Jen and Riley have been best friends since kindergarten. Jen, the white daughter of a conniving woman addicted to drugs, has long admired Riley’s tight-knit family and ambition. Riley, meanwhile, is a proud Black woman who has worked twice as hard to secure the things that come easily to Jen, namely her career as an anchorwoman. With the various tides working against them, Jen and Riley have somehow managed to maintain their friendship and essentially become colorblind when it comes to one another --- minus a few missteps here and there. That said, their friendship has fallen toward the back burner as Jen has begun focusing on starting a family with her police officer husband, Kevin, one of the “good cops” who, while never doing or saying anything racist, is deemed only “okay” by Riley.

When we meet Jen and Riley, they are getting together for drinks --- or at least one of them is. Jen is finally pregnant after multiple rounds of fertility treatments and a life-saving donation from Riley that made her pregnancy possible. While the two joke about the old times and one another’s preferences and flaws in a sisterly way, Jen’s phone starts to erupt in text messages from her husband. After she flees the bar without an explanation, Riley’s phone does the same. A 14-year-old unarmed Black child named Justin Dwyer has been shot by a police officer. Suddenly, Riley knows why Jen left the bar so abruptly.

"Incisive, intensely compelling and, above all, necessary, [WE ARE NOT LIKE THEM] is a riveting work from a tremendous duo who are not afraid to peel back the curtain on the world, their characters and their readers."

The story takes off from there, with Jen navigating the sudden harsh reality of becoming (wife to) public enemy number one, and Riley reporting on a story with nationwide appeal. Pride and Piazza never shy away from the gritty subjects: the horrifying, painful last moments of a child’s life, the sickening act of taking a life, or the way the media can blame one person’s actions on an entire family, community or race. Initially, Kevin and Jen point the finger at Kevin’s new partner, a young man who never confirmed that they were indeed following a dangerous suspect and who pulled the trigger far too soon. But even Jen can see that these are all excuses they have heard before in various police shootings of unarmed Black adults and children. More to the point, she understands that she and Kevin don’t stand a chance in the court of public opinion. With the media swarming her door and Kevin’s “Back the Blue” family hounding her, Jen can think of only one way forward.

Enter Jen’s friendship with Riley. Like Jen, Riley knows that she and her husband are not racist; after all, she’s the future godmother of Jen’s child. Hoping to leverage Riley’s position as an anchorwoman, Jen implores Riley to help her and Kevin maintain his innocence. But what of Riley, a Black woman who has just watched a young, potential-filled member of her community gunned down? Who has heard the cries of his mother? And whose own community is depending on her to vilify and bring justice to Kevin and his partner? For the first time, Jen and Riley will have to have deep, painful conversations about race. But with their friendship already on rocky ground and years of avoided discussions simmering beneath the surface --- not to mention the nationwide cries for justice and retribution --- each exchange comes at a heavy price.

In a market full of searingly current titles featuring similar themes, WE ARE NOT LIKE THEM stands out for its careful, deeply vulnerable and introspective examinations of race relations, microaggressions and police brutality. Whether they are writing about Jen’s hesitance to accept the usual lines (“he looked older, like a thug,” “I thought he was reaching for a gun,” etc.) or Riley’s worries about rocking the boat on her friendship and community, Pride and Piazza hold nothing back, filling each and every page with poignant, evocative discussions.

But even more powerfully, the authors start their narrative a step further than most, in a world where a Black woman and a white woman are already friends, have stepped into one another’s worlds and come out stronger for it. This is not your average contemporary novel about a white character befriending a Black one and learning that they are racist, all wrapped up in a cozy, “transcends race” bow. The book is much more about the ways that our society is inherently racist and how even underprivileged white folks benefit from that inherent racism. But that’s just Jen’s side of things. Riley’s is even more powerful.

It is easy as a white person to say that you “understand” what it is like to be Black, but in WE ARE NOT LIKE THEM, more than in any other book I’ve ever read, the reader gets the full sense of what it means to be Black, live Black and, more importantly, survive Black. No undertones, nuances or assumptions are left unexplored, and the tightrope that many Black men and women --- especially those working in predominantly white industries --- walk is unpacked with laser-sharp focus. One profound takeaway was how frequently Riley thought about race because she had to, and how infrequently Jen did the same, because she never had to.

WE ARE NOT LIKE THEM will no doubt be an uncomfortable read for many white people, but that just means it’s working. Incisive, intensely compelling and, above all, necessary, it is a riveting work from a tremendous duo who are not afraid to peel back the curtain on the world, their characters and their readers.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on October 29, 2021

We Are Not Like Them
by Christine Pride and Jo Piazza

  • Publication Date: August 2, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • ISBN-10: 1982181044
  • ISBN-13: 9781982181048